As there can never be a dull moment with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bolts have signed 40-year-old (!) free-agent winger Mark Recchi to a one-year deal that could be worth $1.5 million with bonuses; they have a contract deal in place with Russian "freight train" Evgeny Artyukhin (6-5, 254), a right winger; and they signed 28-year-old former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Andrew Hutchinson to a one-way contract, which would seem a little odd for a player than hasn't gone more than 41 games in an NHL season.
The addition of Andrew Hutchinson to the top seven means the Bolts currently have a rear guard of Matt Carle, Filip Kuba, Mike Lundin, Shane O'Brien, Alex Picard, Paul Ranger and potentially Janne Niskala. Kuba is
the only player making $3 million or more (Ed. Note: Actually, Matt Carle is making less than $3 million next season but has a $3.438 cap hit); at least three of these players are making less than $1 million next season. By comparison, the Lightning have 14 forwards with NHL contracts, at least 10 of them are making more than $1 million next season.
So Oren Koules and Len Barrie have some investing to do on the blueline, because it's not exactly Jacques Plante back there between the pipes in Tampa (although with the rate these owners are going, he can expect an offer sheet on his grave by Thursday). Whatever will they do?
Free agency is down to table scraps. Guys like Steve Montador are being pimped as the best options left. One name on the list that would seem like the perfect Koules/Barrie guy: 39-year-old Luke Richardson, who played 76 games with Ottawa last season and was just in Tampa back in 2007. But that's just utter, complete speculation.
Trades are one option, as forward Jussi Jokinen has been discussed as bait. Which is rather hilarious when you consider that Jokinen is on the block, the Bolts are so sure of goalie Mike Smith that they signed Olaf Kolzig, and Jeff Halpern is trying to fight back from an ACL injury. That Brad Richards trade keeps getting better and better; well, at least they saved some dough that's now committed to Ryan Malone and Vinny Prospal.
As Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times writes, the more interesting option is on the waiver wire:
Consider this, though. One of the perks of finishing last is you get first crack at players put on waivers (or more likely recall waivers). And there is plenty of scuttlebutt the Lightning is going to be scouring the waiver wire as defensemen become roster casualties. Two names being whispered: Darryl Sydor and Bryan McCabe. Not that it will happen, and Sydor would be more likely than McCabe because of his contract. But it's something to think about, and as we have seen with this new ownership group, anything can happen.
Needless to say, when the addition of either Darryl Sydor or Bryan McCabe would dramatically increase the quality of your defense ... well, you need to work on your defense.
Like we said: Never a dull moment. Not when you have co-owner Len Barrie predicting that Tampa Bay will win the Southeast Division next season. Or when you have Barrie allegedly challenging former defenseman Dan Boyle's work ethic before shipping the veteran defenseman to the San Jose Sharks. My friend James Mirtle has this real scorching abhorrence for Barrie, for some reason, and takes the knives out again:
Boyle wouldn't specify who in the ownership group criticized him, but really, who other than a former teammate or coach would have any knowledge about something as specific as how he gets ready for games?
It's Barrie, plain and simple.
The Lightning are out of their minds if they think this won't affect which players want to come and play for the organization. If Boyle's calling the situation "an absolute joke" in public, one can only imagine what the rendition given to fellow players will sound like. The sideshow continues.
Yeah, Tampa Bay seems to be really struggling to find players willing to sign with the new ownership. Uh-huh. We're sure Vinny Lecavalier will tear up his new contract because an overpaid ex-teammate felt dissed by Len Barrie.