Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Thoughts on the Lukas Krajicek acquisition, and what it may mean
Posted Oct 6, 2008 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Oct 6, 2008 at 10:56 PM
OK, I’ve been reading a lot of your comments and your thoughts on the trade executed by the Lightning on Monday, picking up defenseman Lukas Krajicek and minor league forward Juraj Simek from Vancouver for Shane O’Brien and Michel Ouellet and I figured it was time for me to chime in and offer up some of my thoughts.
First off, trading Ouellet means nothing, he was never really in Tampa Bay’s plans heading into training camp and I’m sure they are happy to shed his $1.3 million salary this season. Personally, I’m glad that Ouellet will get a shot at helping out a team this year and Vancouver can use the help (assuming, of course, he clears re-entry waivers). I don’t think Ouellet got a fair shake here in Tampa, this year or last, and he’s a player who can be productive. He’s not going to light it up, but he can be a poor man’s Andrew Brunette, never thought much of but finds a way to contribute to the offense.
As far as O’Brien, I’m only surprised at how quickly he fell out of favor. You would have figured he was a Barry Melrose kind of guy who can be tough and willing to drop the gloves. Melrose often went out of his way to praise O’Brien during training camp (which very well have been a ploy hoping some other GM would read them in the daily sports clips and think they need a guy like O’Brien who is performing so well in training camp).
Now, on to what this means for Tampa Bay. It’s no secret that Krajicek is considered to be as soft as butter, especially in the corners. Sure doesn’t sound like a Melrose kind of guy. But he can skate and he is a solid passer out of the zone, which will definitely help out the transition game, the main strength to his game that Brian Lawton spoke about this afternoon.
But here’s the thing, I don’t think the team is done tweaking anything this week. I believe there is something more to come. Call it a bit of intuition here and trying to read some of the tea leaves (or chicken bones, depending on your preference) that have been laid out before us.
First of all, defenseman Vladimir Mihalik was reassigned to Norfolk today - Lawton praised the job he did and said no other player did more of a jump up the depth chart in training camp. And with O’Brien-Krajicek being a wash right now, it leaves just six defenseman left on the roster right now.
Logic might point to Paul Ranger’s imminent return from off-season shoulder surgery. That answer is nope, he’s not quite ready. Might be another week, might be two weeks, according to Lawton. They don’t want to push the issue with Ranger, he has to be 100 percent ready and that just won’t happen before Saturday’s home opener.
So, with no corresponding move to bring a defenseman up from Norfolk, this tells me that something else might be in the works.
There’s been Internet speculation that the Lightning might have some interest in bringing in Bryan Berard, who was released from a tryout agreement with Philadelphia over the weekend. Lawton, however, said the signing Berard is “not a possibility’‘.
But when I asked if this was it, if they were done and the plan was to head into the home opener with six defenseman, Lawton was non-committal. On the surface, that doesn’t mean much as any GM would probably say just about the same thing on how they are always looking to improve their team. I, however, didn’t take it as such and feel that something else is coming. They’ve talked an awful lot in recent weeks about wanting to bring in one guy that would serve as the rock of the defense, a stay-at-home type of guy and I think that really became evident over the weekend.
Is Warrener the answer?
Perhaps a guy like Rhett Warrener would come into that picture. Calgary placed him on waivers today and perhaps, just perhaps, this move/moves today were done in preparation for the team expecting to be able to pick Warrener - a veteran of 714 games in the stay-at-home mode. He’s not cheap as he makes $2.3 million in the final year of his contract, but might be the veteran-type they need this season. And even if he’s not claimed on waivers - he was waived by Calgary in June as well and went unclaimed - he could still be plunked off re-entry waivers at half the contract value and salary cap hit should the Flames decide to go that route.
This is something that deserves to be watched over the coming days.