BP Mailbag: 1-30-14

Lots of questions this week, most of which involve speculating on future Lightning lineups. I'm the Miss Cleo of Lightningland, apparently.

Here we go...

What's the deal with the Reto Suri situation and where would he be on the depth chart? (@awoundedzebra1)

Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this week that Suri is indeed on the Lightning’s radar, but the club can’t talk to him until Suri, his agent, and the club work out an agreement enabling the 2014 Olympian to get out of his current contract. Suri told RTS.ch that he expects to sign with Tampa Bay.

Swisshockeynews.ch reported Suri got an out clause, but he hasn’t signed it and will take the Olympic break to consider it. The conditions are that if Suri returns to Switzerland from the fall until 2017, he has to return to his club team, Zug, and if he comes back mid-season, Zug only has to pay him half his due amount.

The site points out that Suri can wait until his Zug contract is over in 2015 and be free to do what he wants.

Of interest here is that Suri previously signed a TWO-WAY contract that was due to start in 2014-2015. Many Europeans will only sign one-way contracts and have an out that allows them to return to Europe should they not make the NHL club. If Suri agrees to a two-way contract, the door is open for a Syracuse assignment, which will be a welcome roster move for the Crunch.

So, where does he fit in? At this point I’d slot him right next to Brett Connolly in terms of the depth chart. That puts him at about 12-14 for nine top-9 spots on next year’s club. Take the Lightning’s current top-9, add Stamkos and Drouin, then comes Connolly, Suri, Panik, etc. Good luck, Mr. Yzerman. #goodproblems

How good of a goal scorer is Drouin? He has tons of assists but can he find the net consistently in the NHL? ?#BPMailbag? (@kennyp1021)

They used to say that if Wayne Gretzky wanted to just be a goal scorer, he would have been FAR greater in the goal department than he was (and he was pretty darn good). I’m ending that sentence there so I don’t put Drouin in the same literal sentence as Gretzky, though their styles are very similar. They are more concerned about making teammates better than they are increasing their goal totals. Drouin has an NHL shot and will probably be a 30-35 goal scorer at the NHL level in his prime. He has a very natural shot, compared to say, Brad Richards, who is an assist man who’s shot is very workmanlike. Richards’ career high for goals in a season is 28. At this moment, I think Drouin – depending on teammates – will be around 35G-70A-105P range most years (read: in his prime, not in his entry level contract).

Have the Bolts found the proverbial, "Diamond in the rough" with Jake Dotchin? #BPMailbag (@andrewswelch)

Well, what’s the definition of “diamond in the rough?” I think of Pavel Datsyuk, Nikolai Khabibulin, and to a lesser degree from those two, Ondrej Palat. I don’t think Dotchin will be at Palat’s level when/if he makes the NHL. I think he’s a very nice prospect who could make it as a third pair guy. A lot of prospects in their final year of juniors break out offensively as they have a size and experience advantage on most of the league. His situation is a little different because he was “trapped” in Owen Sound and has been able to have freedom (and power play time) in Barrie. The fact a sixth rounder is likely earning a contract in and of itself is a plus. If he makes the NHL, that’s even better. I think he could flirt with the NHL in year three of his entry level contract. I think of him as Cory Sarich Lite (who was very good offensively his last two years with WHL Saskatoon). In other words, I don’t think he’ll be a factor offensively in the NHL.

If San Jose doesn't resign Boyle, is he the kind of guy that could come back to Tampa Bay to fill Salo's spot? (@geofitz4)

Interesting thought. Term would be huge, and Tampa, if they are interested, would probably only be interested in a one-year deal. Boyle will likely seek more security at two years. It’d have to be a very affordable contract to give him two years. There’s an opening in the top-4 next year with Salo likely leaving, but even that isn’t a given. So far the candidates to fill that top-4 spot are Barberio, Sustr, or maaaaaaybe Koekkoek. Personally, I think San Jose locks up Boyle before he hits free agency. If he makes it to July unsigned, he certainly would consider Tampa.

What [restricted free agents] that end their contract this year do you think will/won’t get re-signed? #BPMailbag (@ChristineLRM)

I’m going to put re-signing likelihood percentages on these, much like NCAAF recruiting media folks put guesses on commitments:

Alex Killorn, TB: 100% (established, so multi-year deal)
JT Brown, TB: 100% (role not established, so could be 1-2 year deal)
Tyler Johnson: 100% (established, so multi-year deal)
Ondrej Palat: 100% (established, so multi-year deal)
Andrej Sustr: 100% (role not established, so could be 1-2 year deal)
Brett Connolly: 100% (role not established, so could be 1-2 year deal)
Richard Panik: 100% (role not established, so could be 1-2 year deal)
Anders Lindback: 95% (too much invested him to let him walk, no one knocking [no, not Vasilevskiy yet])
Keith Aulie: 65% (1-year deal; rest of the year will be telling)
Dmitry Korobov: 60% (he may want to return home if he doesn’t see clear path to regular NHL gig)
Dana Tyrell: 33% (Good AHL role player, NHL depth)
Philippe Paradis: 10% (Better off on AHL contract; little-to-no NHL upside)
Geoff Walker: 10% (Hasn’t contributed enough at AHL level)
Charles Landry: 0% (Was signed when D depth was minimal)
Riku Helenius: 0% (Safe travels home, and best of luck)

Unrestricted FA’s:

Mike Angelidis: 75% (Oh captain, my captain)
PC Labrie: 75% (Excellent for Crunch, NHL dream probably over)
Matt Taormina: 75% (Better NHL chance elsewhere? Syracuse needs him.)
Sami Salo: 50% (Could be 1-year bridge until someone else is ready for that spot)
Brian Lee: 25% (Just didn’t work out; injury concerns. 2-way deal possible)
Tom Pyatt: 10% (If TB short on role players who can frequently sit)
Cedrick Desjardins: 0% (Best of luck to you; next wave coming in)

With all the talent in the system, how do you see the TB roster taking shape over the next 2 seasons. (@denvilf) #BPMailbag

There is going to have to be some serious player movement to make room for everyone. There simply isn’t room. Here’s a look at, contract-wise, who is realistically an option for the next two years (lines are not official guesses, and I’m not guessing at lineups, just showing who is scheduled to be here based on contract. RFA’s re-signed. Also, if a player is on the Lightning now, I’m not removing him/speculating on roster battles):


Palat-Stamkos-St. Louis

Leading contenders to add: Drouin (99.5% chance he sticks), Suri, Panik, Connolly
Out: Pyatt (UFA)

Aulie (iffy RFA), Cote

Leading contenders to add: Koekkoek, Korobov (iffy RFA)
Out: Salo (UFA)




Leading contenders to add: Suri (if on multi-year deal), Connolly, Namestnikov, Erne
Out: St. Louis (UFA if not re-signed to short-term deal), Malone, Crombeen

Aulie (if re-signed)

Leading contenders to add: Korobov (iffy RFA in 2014), Witkowski
Out: Brewer, Cote

Lindback (pending RFA contract length in 2014)

Leading contenders to add: Gudlevskis
Out: Bishop (UFA – ***I think he gets re-signed***, but sticking to my rules on UFAs on this list)

Like I said, a lot of player movement needed. Purcell is most likely to be traded, but has a 4.5M contract through 2015-2016.

Will I need to learn how to pronounce Koekkoek next season? And also, how do you pronounce Koekkoek? (Bolthed via BP Messageboard)

I think, like Sustr this past year, Koekkoek could be too good to send to Syracuse next fall. However, a lot depends on if Salo is re-signed, and how Barberio, Sustr, Aulie (RFA) develop over the rest of this season. Some think Koekkoek needs playing time due to missed ice time with injury over the past three years. Others believe if you play your best players, he’ll be one. He’s going to be the best defenseman in Syracuse the moment he steps through the War Memorial door. My prediction is he sees time in Tampa next season – but maybe not to start.

And it’s “KOO-koo.”

What is the ETA on guys like Cedric Paquette and Luke Witkowski and what are their ceilings? (Derek28 via BPMB)

What Paquette and Witkowski have in their favor is they are gritty players that can fill in any available slot on the lower lines or pair. Tampa Bay has such an abundance of young forwards that Paquette may have too many players in front of him for a top-9 role. His “best bet” to get a shot is if someone like Nate Thompson goes down with an injury and a fourth line energy guy is needed. Paquette’s future is as a third line center (which is what he told me Tampa Bay expects from him), but as he’s showing in Syracuse, he’s going to be a 2-way threat at that position. He may end up as the future Nate Thompson with the Lightning already projecting to have Stamkos-Johnson-Namestnikov down the middle (assuming Filppula moves to wing), plus Drouin is being cross-trained at center. As for Witkowski, think JP Cote, but quicker in all four directions and speedier at moving the puck. He’s a wonderful third-pair guy. I would guess both stay in Syracuse all of next season and then get some NHL time the season after that.

Should we be concerned with Hedman’s health going forward? (RSchmitz via BPMB)

I don’t think so. Everyone gets hurt, and defensemen who play a lot of minutes are more in danger of an injury than anyone. Hedman is in good shape and is solidly built, so I don’t think there’s cause to worry at this time.

What ever happened in the development of [Kevin] Quick and [Mike] Egener that they didn't pan out? (thefly via BPMB)

The jump from juniors/NCAA to the pros is a big one and one that not everyone can make. Quick was a good looking prospect at Michigan until he was accused of stealing teammates’ credit cards. He got a contract, but as an offense-first defenseman he didn’t put up many points. He was/is a nice 2-way defenseman at the ECHL level, winning a Kelly Cup with Florida and currently with South Carolina.

Egener skated so well, had the character and physicality you want, and the size NHL GM’s like, but he had trouble adjusting to the speed of the AHL and his ability to make consistent outlet passes lacked. He’s doing well in England right now.

Do you see Salo being re-signed? (ChaseSpace via BPMB)

If he is re-signed, it will be a one-year deal. He’s a righty, so that helps his cause. You really don’t want three of your four top-4 defensemen being lefties, but it’s not that uncommon. It really depends on free agent targets and development of younger players. I wouldn’t object to him being re-signed as a bridge for one year.

Do you see Yzerman using Tampa Bay’s remaining buyout this summer? If so, who? (ChaseSpace via BPMB)

I really don’t. Malone is playing at a high contract, but he’s got a year left after this one. He’s the only one I think would be a candidate. He’s a huge asset for the locker room and plays a fourth line role effectively. It’s not like he’s without a role or has an albatross contract. There aren’t any fourth liners banging on the door, either. Paquette can wait. If Yzerman can’t find a trade partner for Teddy Purcell, maybe he’s a candidate. I believe Purcell was signed to his contract thinking he’d continue to develop into a goal-scorer. He wants to be a possession playmaker, and TB has Drouin and Kucherov in that mold ready to go. Purcell, whose contract runs through 2015-2016, is expendable, in my opinion, though he is a righty. So is Johnson, though, so Johnson could take Purcell’s PP use as a righty forward after Stamkos.

Say hypothetically if Tampa wanted to go for Letang, what would we have to give up for him do u think? (@b_giller91)

The first question is if Tampa Bay wants him. Well, of course they’d love his talent, but his 8-year, $58 million contract kicks in next year and you’ve got your RFA Norfolk/Syracuse group to re-sign and Ben Bishop a year away from needing a big-time contract. Do you NEED him bad enough to take on that contract? I don’t think so. But… let’s say they want him bad enough to go after him. Pens are rumored to want scoring, so Teddy Purcell is automatically in the deal, and probably a Grade-A prospect or first rounder, so put Brett Connolly in there, too. It may take Richard Panik instead. You don’t give up Drouin or Kucherov. Then you hope Shero realizes Tampa Bay taking on that contract is value in and of itself.

That’s all for this week. Questions for next week can be tweeted to @boltprospects hashtagged #BPMailbag on Twitter, or posted to our fabulous messageboard.