The fact the Tampa Bay Lightning crowded their crease with the acquisition of Dwayne Roloson speaks volumes. Not only does it represent the Lightning’s declaration that it believes it is a legitimate playoff contender this season, it also speaks to how bold and decisive rookie GM Steve Yzerman has become and the fact new owner Jeff Vinik is not afraid to spend money to bolster his lineup.
To be sure, Yzerman made the deal with the New York Islanders for Roloson with the full knowledge his two starting goaltenders – Dan Ellis and Mike Smith – have played so poorly this season they might have made themselves untradeable. But he also knows the Lightning were going absolutely nowhere this season relying on either one of Ellis or Smith. He knows he has a wonderfully talented team that defends very well and is well coached, but has been betrayed by its goaltending.
Ellis and Smith have been at or near the bottom of most of the important goaltending statistics this season. Their save percentages have been atrocious and the Lightning sit 26th in the league in goals-against despite the fact they give up the fewest shots per game in the league (27.5).
Yzerman clearly wasn’t about to hand the starting job to Cedrick (The Entertainer) Desjardins, despite the fact Desjardins was very impressive in his first two NHL starts, stopping 61 of 63 shots and picking up his first two victories. Unfortunately, that will likely earn him a ticket back to the minors when Smith returns to the lineup in seven to 10 days from a knee injury.
In Roloson, the Lightning instantly get a No. 1 goalie who continues to shine despite the fact he is two years older than Lightning coach Guy Boucher. Since leading the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, Roloson has played for nothing but bad teams, but has established himself as one of the most dependable veterans in the league. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a team that gives him some offensive wiggle room and doesn’t force him to face 35 shots a game.
His $2.5 million contract runs out after this season, which is nice for the Lightning, who are paying Smith $2.2 million this season and Ellis $1.5 million this season and next. The fact Yzerman was willing to make the trade without insisting the Islanders take on some salary of their own – minor league defenseman Ty Wishart was the player going the other way - is a clear indication the Lightning are serious about making a long playoff run this season.
And their chances of doing so just got a lot better. Roloson is a proven commodity, a winner who will provide the Lightning with the kind of stability in goal they have searched for all season. Thanks to Yzerman’s bold move and Vinik’s willingness to fund it, the Lightning now have all the components in place to make some serious noise in the post-season.
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