Tampa Bay is an interesting case study. They're a team with talent but no identity. They appear to be on the verge of turning the corner and becoming a competitive team in the Eastern Conference but need some tweaking to make that happen. Essentially, Tampa's vacant GM position was an aspiring Manager's dream and for Steve Yzerman it's a dream-come-true.
Yahoo Sports is reporting that Stevie Y has been named as Tampa's next General Manager and this will likely lead to some meaningful changes for the Lightning. The team has as much high-end talent as any non-playoff team but these players can be divided into new-guard and old-guard. Players like Martin St.Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are in their primes and have already won a cup with the team. Others, like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman will hope to achieve similar success as they develop in the years to come. The question for Yzerman is what road to travel.
Lecavalier has a 'life-time' deal at close to $8 M per and St.Louis is in the final year of a deal that will net him $5.25 M. While the Lightning have the feel of a team that isn't far off, I'm advocating a fire-sale and here's why;
- St.Louis is going to get a raise - He's played well and he's worth more than he's getting paid in the current landscape. That said, if you're Tampa and you've got studs like Stamkos and Hedman in the system, do you really want to tie up more cash in St.Louis and risk not being able to pay one of them?
- Lecavalier and Stamkos are both centers - This can go one of two ways. You could either have a great one-two running down the middle of the ice OR you could end up like the Penguins, unable to put anything better than an 80 year-old Bill Guerin on Crosby's wing. Some will say that the Penguins won a cup with this model and I'll respond by saying that Lecavalier-Stamkos is not Crosby-Malkin but the cost will probably be pretty close. Don't argue with me, I'm right.
- The Chicago Blackhawks, pre-Marian Hossa - In my opinion, if there was a team in the NHL that looked poised to be a dynasty, it was the Hawks. They were rife with young talent, much of it affordable, and they had depth everywhere. Then they signed Marian Hossa to a big money deal all but assuring that guys like Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg will be getting their money elsewhere. Having said that, if we look at the Hawks' situation pre-Hossa, the Lightning could put themselves in a similar position. Stamkos should be a top-10 NHL talent and Hedman projects to be a very good defenseman. If Tampa chose to ship St.Louis and Lecavalier for prospects and picks then they could find themselves with a core that would look eerily similar to what the Hawks have now.
- The Los Angeles Kings - Lecavalier had been rumored to be moving to one of Montreal or Los Angeles a year ago. Montreal decided to spend money like a Sather last offseason so taking on Vinny's contract is probably out of the question but the Kings look like a very eligible trade partner. They love stars in LA and Vinny is that. They also have some very good prospects on defense that might be moveable with the emergence of Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty. Guys like Colten Teubert and Thomas Hickey come to mind. Add Brandon Kozun, Oscar Moller and Brayden Schenn to the mix and you can see that the Kings have a prospect-rich system that could afford to move some promising talent out if the return was a guy like Lecavalier.
Those are my thoughts - what are yours? Is Tampa closer than I'm giving them credit for? What does Yzerman have to do?