This past season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had to watch their in-state rival win the Southeast Division title and skate in the playoffs as a result. Minus a mini run late in the regular season, the Bolts were virtually a non-factor in the division all year, and they have already gone out to make serious adjustments this summer to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
A week ago, they signed Anders Lindback to a two-year deal in an attempt to bolster their netminding situation. At 24, Lindback made 16 appearences including 10 starts for the Predators last year, but was 5-8-0 on the season. He will likely be up against Mathieu Garon for the starting role heading into the fall. In 48 games last season, Garon put up a 23-16-4 record and a 2.85 GAA.
Defenseman Matt Carle, who played in all 82 games last year averaging 23 minutes of ice time per game, signed a hefty six year, $33 million deal with Bolts on July 4. He played 12 games for the Lightning in the ’08-’09 season, as part of the package that sent Dan Boyle to San Jose. Carle has spent the last four years with the Flyers, averaging just over 34 points per game. A key power play weapon and a +4 on the ice last season, he has proven that he is much improved compared to four years ago.
Additionally on the blue line, the Lightning signed Sami Salo to a two year, $7 million deal. Salo heads south fresh off a President Trophy-winning Canucks squad that saw a first round exit from the playoffs at the hands of the eventual Cup winners.
The biggest concern in this situation would be keeping him healthy, especially for the amount of money that was shelled out for him. He has a known track record of being injury-prone, but he is also known for being a very offensive defensman who can find the back of the net with his strong slapper from the point.
Other new names in the mix include Matt Taormina, Benoit Pouliet and Kyle Wilson. Taormina, another D-man, signed a one year contract in hopes of seeing more playing time after spending the majority of last season in the AHL. Pouliet signed a one year extension with the Lightning worth $1.8 million. The 25-year-old winger scored 16 goals and had 16 assists last season with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins.
Wilson was a part of the Lindback deal from Nashville, as was a seventh round draft pick; the Preds received goaltender Sebastien Caron, two second round picks and a third-rounder in return. Wilson also spent last season in the minors, while he racked up 54 points for AHL Milwaukee.
Aside from Minnesota, there weren’t many teams in this year’s “Free Agent Frenzy” that came away with a multitude of earth-shattering changes to their club. However, it is worth noting that these moves by the Lightning are still steps in the right direction, that could at the least push them back into playoff contention. Carolina and Washington will return better teams in Southeast as well, so prepare for a division race that will likely be even more heated than it was last season.
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