TAMPA — A warmer climate and a great team are just two of the things Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney is looking forward to in the 2019-20 season.
In an interview with NHL Tonight broadcasters, McElhinney said he is especially looking forward to being on the other side of the Lightning’s “high-powered offense” having “faced the brunt of it” last season when the 36-year-old goaltender played for the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I’m excited to get down there,” he said. “This is Round 2 in Tampa for me so hopefully it will be a little bit longer than the last time I went through there."
McElhinney will serve as a back-up role to Tampa Bay’s veteran goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy this season. Tampa Bay opted to sign McElhinney in part because of Louis Domingue’s upcoming unrestricted free agency in 2020-21. Domingue likely will look to play a larger role on another team.
In the interview he discussed what went into that decision-making process of choosing between what could have been a good opportunity for him individually playing a bit more vs. a good opportunity to play for a great team.
“Carolina was a unique situation,” he said. “Obviously, I got thrust into a bigger role, and it was a lot of fun. It had been 14 years in the making in terms of playing that many games. It was a real treat, but I’ve kind of thrived in this role as a back-up now, and I know they’ll (Tampa Bay) want to cut some of the games back and give me more of an opportunity to provide a bit of relief.”
McElhinney said Tampa Bay “was punched in the mouth” last season after getting swept by the Blue Jackets in the opening round of the playoffs, becoming the first Presidents’ Trophy-winning team in NHL history to get swept in Round 1. With most of the players returning from last season, the new Lightning goaltender doesn’t have any doubts that the team will be even more focused when the puck drops at the beginning of the season.
“When you’re heading to a team that has the expectations that Tampa does, it sets the tone right away that we mean business,” he said.
And one thing’s for sure about McElhinney: Winning is first and foremost in his mind.
“I think at this point in my career it’s more about being on a winning team,” McElhinney said, “and getting that opportunity to get back to the playoffs every year."
McElhinney is already starting his training back on the ice (even having his son shoot on him in goal). He is spending the summer in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, like he normally does. But when he’s not in-between the posts, he can normally be found in-between the pages of a book.
“My main objective is to become a better player every year,” he said. “And reading’s kind of my thing right now,...and you never know, you might pick up one or two things that can help in your career.”
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.