That collective "WHEW!" sound you may have heard was the exhale from many Tampa Bay Lightning fans. The Bolts wrapped two of their biggest lingering questions, securing super sniper Steve Stamkos to a five-year deal and avoiding arbitration with up-and-comer Teddy Purcell by signing him to a two-year, $4.725 million deal.
It's been a busy offseason for Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman. Of course, securing Stamkos was the primary mission and when the Lightning were unable to get the contract resolved before the open of free agency, the rumor mill churned at a fever pitch.
Even now, with Stamkos signed, sealed and delivered, there are already articles on whether he'll remain a Bolt for the duration of his contract. Trade rumors for five years down the line, folks? Really?
The truth is Stamkos is one of the best players in the National Hockey League. No franchise would trade that away (except maybe Edmonton). The lusting for Stamkos by Flyer fans and writers alike reminds me of Habs fans coming up with a new Vincent Lecavalier rumor every single year of his career.
Yes, the Lightning are top-heavy on the salary cap. It's not ideal, but Tampa Bay is hardly the only team in the league doing it. All Yzerman did with the five-year deal for Stamkos is buy some time.
Time for Martin St. Louis to wrap up his amazing NHL career. Time to find some team fool enough to take Vincent Lecavalier's horrible contract off the Lightning's hands.
Stamkos' third contract will certainly be his most lucrative, but the Lightning now have time to work that into their salary cap dynamics. If Stammer continues with 40 to 50 goals a season, that $8 million a year contract is going to look like a bargain.
While waiting for Stamkos to make up his mind, Yzerman was busy. He re-signed Eric Brewer, who became one of the Bolts' top defensemen in the postseason. He also brought back forward Adam Hall, forward Blair Jones, defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
Yzerman dipped into the free-agency pool to replace goalie Mike Smith with veteran Mathieu Garon. He filled Simon Gagne's hole with speedy youngster Ryan Shannon. He also added forwards Alexandre Picard, Tom Pyatt, Trevor Smith and J.T. Wyatt to compete for spots in training camp.
Yzerman also added some defensive depth with Matt Gilroy, Bruno Gervais and Richard Petiot.
He also came to terms with 2010 first-round pick Brent Connolly and of course today with forward Teddy Purcell.
With the roster pretty much set, it wouldn't surprise me to see Yzerman move one of those extra defensemen for a top six forward. With $4 million to play with, you can move a Pavel Kubina or Brett Clark and get yourself some help on the front lines.
While Ryan Shannon certainly has potential—he's never really produced big numbers at the NHL level. Then again, the same could be said for Purcell going into this past season. He finished with a career-high 51 points and 17 goals.
As it stands today, your top four lines look like this:
Purcell - Stamkos - St. Louis
Downie - Lecavalier - Malone
Shannon - Moore - Thompson
Hall - Pyatt - Tyrell
One more top-six forward certainly couldn't hurt.
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