Lightning Make Major Upgrades In Free Agency

The Tampa Bay Lightning made bold moves on Sunday night when they traded away Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen and Sam Gagner. Now, they have made even bigger moves in free agency and have shown that GM Steve Yzerman isn’t messing around.

The Lightning were able not only to get D Anton Stralman but also C Brian Boyle. Both recently played in the Stanley Cup Final with the New York Rangers and gained much recognition for their stellar play especially Stralman. The Bolts also signed a backup goalie in Evgeni Nabokov who will be a serviceable backup.

With the acquisition of these final pieces, Yzerman may be done in the free agency hunt and can now focus on resigning his remaining restricted free agents. He had a very productive free agency and more importantly, a smart one.

With Stralman, the Lightning have finalized their defensive roster and brought on a solid puck possession player who will thrive in head coach Jon Cooper’s system. Stralman was coveted by many teams and the Lightning were able to avoid a bidding war for his services as many thought he would re-sign with the New York Rangers.

“We’ve stabilized our D. We got a little bit bigger and a little bit mobile,” Yzerman said. “He’s a really good skater. He skates well, moves the puck well. There are some more offense to his game. He’s responsible defensively.”

Yzerman wanted to get a little bit bigger and with Stralman and Boyle, he certainly did. Both Stralman and Boyle come in at 194 lbs and 244 lbs respectively. Boyle made a big impression on many during the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is why he was on many teams’ radars. He will fill the void left by Thompson. Yzerman also liked the fact that Boyle could play multiple positions at both center and wing, giving Cooper a bit more of an option with his lineup.

“We had a hole at center. We like his size and how he competes. He is a good penalty killer and he can play center and winger. He can wear on the opponent,” Yzerman said. “These big bodies are effective because night after night, you have to go up against them in the playoffs.”

One of Yzerman’s other selections was Nabokov who is going to replace Anders Lindback behind Ben Bishop. Nabokov signed for one year and should be a bit of an upgrade and spell Bishop with some quality starts.Nabokov has spent the last few years with the New York Islanders and had many great playoff runs with the San Jose Sharks. He finished the year with a 2.74 GAA and a 90 percent save percentage with an injury plagued Islanders team.

The mantra it seemed for this year’s free agency was experience as all three players have had not only regular season experience but playoff experience and that will be beneficial to a core made up of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and others.

“We are gonna move in a couple more young guys so it’s important to have some of the veterans with years in the league but also great playoff runs in them as well.”

Although fans and media may be excited about the new acquisitions, which on paper look like an upgrade, their general manager is being cautious.

“At the end of the day, on July 1, we feel ok [about the moves] but I won’t get too excited until I see us on the ice in the fall.”