Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith has led the Phoenix Coyotes into the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. Do you remember when Smith came to Tampa Bay from Dallas in exchange for Brad Richards? Smith was supposed to be the new Nikolai Khabibulin. He had a record of 43-69 in 4 seasons and the most games he played in was 42 in ’09-’10. This year in the desert he totalled 38 wins in 67 games in the regular season alone. For that 43-69 record, they gave up Brad Richards, who over the same time span put up 70 goals and 157 assists for 227 points, and he added 66 points this season with the Rangers. So during the 4 year span after the trade, Richards put up 5 points for every win Smith earned in Tampa. What a deal. This is arguably one of the worst trades the Lightning have made.
Speaking of goaltending, you can bet that the Lightning are keeping an eye on what is unfolding up in Vancouver. Superstar Roberto Luongo has requested a trade after Canucks officials have notified him that Cory Schneider will be their go to guy next season. Luongo offered to waive his no trade clause without even being asked. He will submit a list of teams he will approve a trade to and the top teams holding his interest are rumored to the the Lightning and Toronto. He holds control of where he ends up. The Lightning are a good fit because they have over 16 million available under the cap for next year, their stars are under contract for several more years and Luongo spent 5 seasons with the Florida Panthers and his wife still considers Florida as home. He is only 33 years old and has over 300 wins to his credit. Plus he still has 10 years left on a contract that pays him $5.3 million per year. Tampa Bay could easily fit him under the cap and still make a few key additions to add to their strong core of players. Rumors have Ryan Malone mentioned in a possible deal. The Lightning would be foolish to pass up on an opportunity to grab a goalie of such high caliber. Dwayne Roloson may not come back next season and even if he does, he is in no way the player that Luongo is.
A couple other options for the Lightning between the pipes are Jonathan Bernier (LA), Tuukka Rask (Boston) and Nashville’s backup Anders Lindback. All are restricted free agents meaning those teams have the option of matching any offer, but the Bolts could take a run at any of them. Bernier is clearly not the man for the Kings anymore now that Jonathan Quick has led them to the Western Conference Finals. Rask will not be given a shot to start in Boston as long as Tim Thomas decides to stick around. And Lindback has shown signs of potential greatness in Nashville in his limited playing time with a .912 save percentage, but Pekka Rinne has solidified his future with the Predators this season by going 43-18 with a 2.39 GAA. If the Bolts opt for this route instead of a trade for Luongo, Tuukka Rask probably would be the best fit. He has also shown signs that he can become a successful starting goaltender in the NHL and he is only 25 years old. In ’09-’10 he played in 45 games for the Bruins and went 22-17 with a 1.97 GAA and a save percentage of 931.
Steven Stamkos has been named a Finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award given to the NHL’s “Most Outstanding Player”. The award is the former Lester B. Pearson trophy. Stamkos has also been named a Finalist for the Hart Trophy which is the NHL’s MVP award. Stamkos has already clinched one trophy for sure as his 60 goals led the league and earned him the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy. This years awards show is on June 20th in Las Vegas.
The Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, are in a battle with the Connecticut Whale in their first round playoff matchup. The series is tied 2-2 with game 5 on Wednesday night in Connecticut. The Admirals entered the playoffs on a 28 game winning streak. After a loss on February 5th, the team did not lose another regular season game, shattering the professional hockey record for a winning streak. They will continue the streak when next season starts as the playoff games don’t count in the record run.
Tampa Bay will have the 10th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft that will be held on June 22nd in Pittsburgh. Depending on the outcome of the playoffs they could also end up with the 20th overall pick as well. Will they use the 10th pick to choose a goalie, or another young defenseman, or will they use it as bait in a deal for Luongo?
Tampa Bay has announced that the Tampa Bay Times Forum will be receiving a brand new, state of the art, center hung, video display board. It will be the biggest in any arena in the US and Canada. The Forum already sports one of the nicest center hung video boards in the NHL. The current board features a display size of 16 feet high by 28 feet wide. The new board, made by Daktronics, will have a display size of 28 feet high and 20 fet wide. It will have the capability of showing several displays at the same time including a live feed, scores and stats. The board will be in place for the Lightning’s next season opener and caries a cost of around $5 million, which Bolts owner Jeff Vinik is paying for himself.
Ray Blanchette covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for Outside The Redzone. He also covers NCAA football for the Saturday Blitz. Follow along at www.saturdayblitz.com. Blanchette is the owner of Blanchette Sports Holdings. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesh.elementfx.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports