Shedding light on the Lightning's free agent spending spree
You have to hand it to new Lightning owners
A weeklong shopping spree has completely re-vamped a forward corps maligned for its absence of depth beyond the trio of
No arguing that this group, which now includes 15 players on one-way NHL contracts, looks more formidable, both in terms of talent and character. If it gels -- no sure thing, it should be noted -- the Lightning have the depth to challenge for a playoff spot, and maybe even the top seed in the wide-open Southeast.
But in a league where youth is served and building from within has keyed the success of both of this year's Cup finalists, is a short-term fix really the best approach?
It's definitely a risk.
By going this route, the Lightning hope to bypass years of bottom dwelling that would make the game a tough sell in a fickle market. Of course, being lousy offers some benefits that make up for the empty seats. That's the path that allowed the Penguins to gather up cornerstones like
And all the recent FA signings did little to address what was widely perceived to be the Lightning's biggest problem: it's laissez-faire defense
It all seems a bit counterintuitive ...until you understand which basket they're actually putting their eggs in.
These moves aren't so much about building a formidable offense as they are about buying time for the young blueline. While some of the forwards, like Recchi and Roberts, may be transitionary, the Lightning believe they already have the defensive bodies around which they can build a viable contender.
Thing is, at the moment anyway, this group looks less imposing than the one that ranked 29th last season. Since moving
The system also includes
There's some real potential there, but it's not exactly imposing in the short term. And that's where all the recent moves begin to make sense. By throwing four capable forward lines at the opposition, the Lightning hope to take some pressure off the blueliners and buy them some breathing room so the mistakes that are surely going to come won't be so painful. Sure, there should be a lot of 6-5 games in the short term -- again, not a bad thing for ticket sales -- but they're giving the kids a cushion for when they fall down on the job.
That said, it wouldn't be surprising to see another addition to the group at some point. With so many bodies up front on one-way deals, a trade or two seems inevitable.
The Lightning desperately needed to address blueline troubles in free agency. It'll be interesting to see if their forward-thinking approach allows them to do just that.