Blog: Early Roster Analysis

This month’s blog entry comes at you in lieu of a podcast. When we created this site over a decade ago our family and professional lives were a lot different, and life keeps finding new ways to get in the way. So, I’m writing this on one of USA’s highways on the way to a family vacation destination (from the passenger seat — don’t type on a laptop and drive, kids).

Is it just me, or could Steve Yzerman stare down the angel of death and win?

“Steve, I’ve come to take you. It’s your time.”

“No it’s not.”

“Okay, my mistake. Bye.”

I don’t know which offseason hero to laud more, Stevie-Jedi or that Stamkos fellow. As some have mentioned, this was huge for Tampa Bay sports. Stamkos isn’t perfect, but he’s a star, and for a star athlete to choose Tampa Bay over every other opportunity out there – and leave that much money on the table – he put the exclamation point on the Tampa Bay as a legitimate hockey hotbed. The rest of the continent can accept it now or later, but they will accept it.

Then Hedman joined the movement as though he was the second student on Dead Poet’s Society to stand on his desk and pledge his allegiance to the cause. Then Vasilevskiy got up on his desk.

For all the talk about Stamkos throughout the year, if someone threw out what ended up happening as an option, they would have been laughed out of the room. Stamkos would really take just a $1M raise? Why would he do that when he could make $12M elsewhere, state taxes or not? Because some athletes are still loyal and their love for the game is worth more than we realize in 2016 sports.

The “con” on re-signing Stamkos has always been the number against the cap. But at a clearly manageable number, of course it makes sense. I'm floored.

I was so impressed with Mr. Stamkos and his decision I jumped online and bought my son a Stamkos shirsey. I believe in role models and I believe in Steven Stamkos.

There’s always a fear among the fans that management can’t see what they see. And yes, I’m talking about Matt Carle here. There was a fear in Bolt Nation that Carle wouldn’t be bought out, but not because of the financial ramifications against the cap. I think fans didn’t believe the Lightning saw the fact that Carle was no longer a day-to-day NHL defenseman. He had a nice run around the trade deadline, but the fairy tale ended by the second round of the playoffs. By the end of the third round, he was back at the popcorn stand. Coaches love veterans, and if you’re a GM, sometimes you have to help your coaches by limiting their options. Had Carle stayed, maybe the temptation to play him would have been too strong – especially in place of Koekkoek, who’s on the escalator up. Now is the time for those decisions.

In a vaguely related situation, I’d still like to see Filppula moved – especially with Stamkos back in the fold, and even though Tyler Johnson will be difficult to re-sign next year. He just makes too much money to be a 3C, and Vladdy Namestnikov is about to get a raise as an RFA. Filppula’s a nice faceoff guy and defensive center, and he’s a great leader for the club, but that’s a lot of coin for a guy who seems to have forgotten there are two nets (yes, that goes the other way, too).

Speaking of 2-net Drouin, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t just a little giddy about the fact that the Drouin-to-Stamkos dream is back on track. Throw Kucherov on that line sometimes and get out the popcorn. I know @Drouin2Stamkos is happy and doing a Lazarus dance (I’m assuming Lazarus danced – the original Thriller routine?).

Meanwhile, in Syracuse…

I was also happy to see the Lightning attempt to make Syracuse into a legitimate playoff threat. Syracuse wasn't a Day 2 priority this year, they were getting attention on Day 1 of free agency. The Lightning are trying to send a message to Syracuse fans. The Crunch have loaded up the offense, but the defense remains Kate Moss thin. In fact, let’s have a look at potential lineups for the Lightning and Crunch if the season were to start in mid-July:

Tampa Bay (23 spots)

Forward (13):

1. Steven F. Stamkos
2. Tyler Johnson
3. Valtteri Filppula
4. Vlad Namestnikov
5. Brian Boyle
6. Tanner Richard
7. Ondrej Palat
8. Jonathan Drouin
9. Alex Killorn
10. Cedric Paquette
11. Nikita Kucherov
12. JT Brown
13. Erik Condra

(IR: Ryan Callahan)

Defense (8):
1. Victor Hedman
2. Anton Stralman
3. Jason Garrison
4. Braydon Coburn
5. Andrej Sustr
6. Slater Koekkoek
7. Nikita Nesterov
8. Luke Witkowski

Goalie:

1. Ben Bishop
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Analysis: I think there still needs to be a right-side defenseman added. It could be a power play specialist like UFA Peter Harrold, who would push Luke Witkowski down to Syracuse, where he could/should be captain. In an article on Anthony Repaci, the young Saint Mary’s University forward said the Lightning told him there were only two spots left for players (NHL teams only allowed a max of 50 contracts, and most like to keep at least 2-3 spots open.). That was before Tampa Bay signed Mike Halmo, which puts the Lightning at 46 contracts. There’s one spot open if no contracts (Bishop) move out. If Bishop does move, I think an affordable, young defenseman close to Anthony DeAngelo’s development step is acquired. If two contracts come back, the other is probably a young winger with size. If Stevie-Jedi was to somehow get both Nichushkin and Honka out of Dallas, that would be … well, probably a dream. If Bishop does move, the Lightning probably go into the season with Gudlevskis and a vet battling for the backup spot to Vasilevskiy. The loser takes the No. 1 spot in Syracuse next to Adam Wilcox. Up front, I think the Lightning are set, and look pretty good. They should score a lot of goals with 2-net Drouin added into the regular season lineup – assuming the team isn’t conservative in its approach to offense again.

Syracuse (23 spots)

Forward (13):

1. Gabriel Dumont
2. Matt Peca
3. Brayden Point
4. Cameron Darcy
5. Tye McGinn
6. Yanni Gourde
7. Adam Erne
8. Mike Halmo
9. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
10. Joel Vermin
11. Henri Ikonen
12. Michael Bournival
13. Jeremy Morin
14. Brian Hart

Defense (8):

1. Matt Taormina
2. Dylan Blujus
3. Jake Dotchin
4. Daniel Walcott
5. Dominik Masin
6. Ben Thomas
7. Adam Comrie (AHL Contract)
8. AHL Contract

Goalies (2):

1. Kristers Gudlevskis
2. Adam Wilcox

Analysis: This is a very good group of forwards, who could still receive Tanner Richard back from the Lightning after Callahan gets off IR (assuming everyone else is healthy). We could still see Boko Imama come in on an AHL contract (his rights remain), which protects spot 47 on the organizational roster and gets him into the pros. He probably starts in ECHL Kalamzoo.

I get asked all the time about Adam Erne making the Lightning out of camp. If he comes in white hot, then it’s possible, but he’s got more work to do on his game and build on his strong finish to last season. He’s not there yet, but he’s getting close. Remember, they will wait until a guy is ready, then they’ll wait to make sure he doesn’t change their mind. If you think otherwise, you haven’t been paying attention to Yzerman very closely. Erne will make it, but stay patient.

Defensively, an addition for the Lightning to push Witkowski down is needed, as well as a few AHL signings for depth. There are vets available out there. As is, the defense is by far the weakest position in Syracuse, and though Blujus and Dotchin are entering their third years of pro hockey, a longtimer or two coming in to push Thomas down to The Zoo would be beneficial for all parties. I liked what Thomas did at the end of last season with Syracuse, but he needs ice time. I’d like to see Masin or Walcott as the No. 7 to start. Injuries will always show themselves at some point. Again, though, I really like the goal-scoring potential of the Crunch this year. This is a far cry from last year – and especially two years ago – when they were trying to win games 2-1. Benoit Groulx and Co. will be entertaining this year, but hopefully in a 5-2 way and not a 5-5 way.

Have a great summer, all. I’ll post a #BPMailbag soon. Check back for that in the coming days. To submit a question, write to chad@boltprospects.com or @boltprospects on Twitter using the #BPMailbag hashtag.