Much has been made about what the Lightning gave up by the March 1 trade deadline. Gone are goalie Ben Bishop and veteran centers Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula.
But Tampa Bay's one addition — veteran backup goalie Peter Budaj, 34 — could be pivotal in not only a playoff push but beyond.
Budaj, acquired from the Kings in the Bishop deal, has won two of his first three starts with the Lightning, including Thursday's massive victory in Boston. He was instrumental in a 3-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 13.
"He's a veteran goalie and not afraid of these situations," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's calm in net. He just exudes poise back there, and it's good for our team. You can put him in these situations and understand you're going to get a game from him."
Budaj has become the perfect partner for No. 1 Andrei Vasilevskiy. Budaj understands his role and is comfortable in it, which is important. It wasn't easy for Bishop and Vasilevskiy to share the net this season, both being No. 1s. Even veteran Evgeni Nabokov struggled to adjust after he signed to back up Bishop in 2014-15.
With Budaj, the Lightning knows it can give Vasilevskiy needed rest and stick with its plan of starting the backup in one out of every four games and not see a big dropoff. Budaj can also serve as a mentor; you can see he already has fit in well with teammates in the locker room.
This could be an audition for next season for Budaj. The Lightning will need a backup, and Budaj can be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
Budaj said he has made expected on-ice and life adjustments since the trade. But he has been impressed with the Lightning organization, from top to bottom. "I like it here," he said.
$23M Combined salary cap hit for the Lightning scratches Friday night in Detroit, 30 percent of the $73 million cap.
Quote to note
"I hope to get two points."
GM Steve Yzerman, who played 22 seasons in Detroit, on if he planned to take mementos from Friday's final trip to closing Joe Louis Arena
Blues GM Doug Armstrong was at the Lightning-Bruins game in Boston on Thursday visiting with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Tampa Bay assistant GM Pat Verbeek was in St. Louis the same night. The teams scouted each other heavily before the March 1 trade deadline, likely laying groundwork for a potential summer deal. … C Steven Stamkos, who played with Bruins LW Brad Marchand for Canada at September's World Cup, described the Boston agitator and MVP candidate this way: "He's just a guy that when you're playing against him, you hate him, and when he's on your team, you love him." … Think RW Nikita Kucherov's current three-year deal is team-friendly at a $4.6 million annual average? His next deal will likely surpass Stamkos' $8.5 million cap hit. … Former Lightning G Ben Bishop got his first win with the Kings on Thursday night against Winnipeg; he has allowed two goals or fewer in four of his first five games with Los Angeles.