Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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A look ahead to the summer
Posted Apr 24, 2007 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Apr 24, 2007 at 11:58 PM
Have you ever been involved in a project, one that extends on and on, and you get so wrapped up in what you are doing and how you go about doing it that nothing around seems to matter as much. You get so involved that you don’t even realize what you are doing or, more importantly, how you are doing it. It was that way from me my sophomore year in college when I was working a 30-hour a week job waiting tables, taking 12 credit hours of classes in college, doing an internship three days a week all while preparing to get married.
Well, I was sitting around my couch today after doing some chores around the house (a place I have seen too little of lately) such as folding laundry, changing bed sheets in my son’s room, changing the air filter for my air conditioner, feeding my boys lunch, emptying the dishwasher, picking up my other boys from school (sounds like a full day, but my wife would probably disagree with that) and I realized how tired I was. I could have taken a long nap right then and there, you know the kind where you end up with some drool hanging from your bottom lip and when you wake up it takes a few moments to realize where you are and what time it is (the fact my two-year old and four-year old were running around prevented that, of course)
But after an extended two weeks of the season, it made me think how I ever made it through the 2004 season, when the season was extended for two months and must have featured over 10,000 miles or more in travel!!!!!!
Oh well, it comes with the job. The pay off is I get to spend a lot of time at home with my kids and it means I won’t miss my 4th-grader Kyle compete in the district Battle of the Books at the Tampa Convention Center Wednesday!!!!
Before I get there, however, it’s time to take a look ahead at Jay Feaster’s summer project as he tries to remold a championship caliber team.
First off, a couple of notes that didn’t make it into the paper from Monday’s exit interview meetings….
The Lightning have extended a contract to hulking winger Evgeny Artyukhin, who spent the past season playing in Russia. He has been offered a one-way deal believed to be worth around $475,000. But there is no guarantee his agent, Mark Gandler, will take the deal. But wouldn’t a line with Nick Tarnasky centering Andre Roy and Artyukhin put some fear in some teams? That line alone would make Tampa Bay six-feet taller on the ice!!!!!!!!!!
Also, been reading some of the reports on Bolts Prospects (great work by the way from Pete and Chad) in regards to defenseman Andreas Holmqvist, who enjoyed a good year in Sweden. Apparently there is still some internal debate going on in the organization as to whether Holmqvist has matured enough physically to handle the North American style. He failed miserably the first time around, although that was a few years ago. While he would have a tough task cracking the Lightning roster next season, he could show his stuff in Norfolk. With his offensive upside and ability to pass the puck he could be an intriguing reclamation project.
Also, I fully expect Jason Ward to be signed to a contract sooner rather than later. And really, if I was in his skates I would take whatever deal they offer and take it.
Now, on to what has to happen….
Tampa Bay needs a No. 1 goalie, that goes without saying, but they don’t grow on trees. I’m not convinced that Holmqvist is a No. 1 and I get the feeling the organization feels the same way. And I don’t think they can go into training camp next season with Holmqvist and Karri Ramo as one and two on the depth chart. I can’t imagine that the Feaster will be able to trade for one because the price would be too high and they don’t have the assests unless one of the Big Three are dealt (something I don’t see happening). And they won’t be able to find one through free agency because first there are not that many available and second Tampa Bay doesn’t have the ability to out bid another team.
That leaves the most likely option as bringing in a veteran who is willing to come in for a low salary with perhaps an option like the deal Dominik Hasek has in Detroit, which includes a base of $750,000 and a $1 million bonus if the Wings win the Stanley Cup. Others in that boat include Curtis Joseph, who the Lightning wanted to sign before last season but he wasn’t willing to accept not being handed the No. 1 job (maybe Tampa Bay would feel differently this year). And though Ed Belfour played out of his mind in Florida this year, his off-issues probably make him an unlikely candidate.
This avenue presents a risk in and of itself as bringing in a 40-year old goaltender could end in an injury at any moment.
Tampa Bay also needs to find a winger to play with Brad Richards. Richards had 70 points this season, but with a winger who could finish he would have been a lot closer to 100 points than he was to 50!!! This, I think is a situation that could be remedied easier and could be accomplished via trade. I don’t see much on the potential free agent market that could help.
I don’t think this team is far off. Marty St. Louis is back to form, Vinny Lecavalier has taken that next step, Richards will be better next year and Boyle should be right on par with what he did this year. Fill the two glaring holes and slot guys in more suitable spots - Ward on the third line, Perrin not being relied on to score 25 goals, etc… - and this team could easily be the class of the Southeast Division next season.
But Feaster has to pull the right triggers and find a way to shed himself of Marc Denis, two tasks that are not going to be easy.
It should be interesting to see what transpires this summer.