NHL free agent frenzy and the Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts Beat

Thank you so much to all of you who gave the first episode of The Bolts Beat a listen. We will be putting together another episode later this week. Hopefully they will be done and ready to go on Thursday's moving forward, but this week we are pushing it to Friday due to the start of Unrestricted Free Agency. Stay tuned for who will be joining us.

July 1st. Christmas for a lot of teams in the National Hockey League. Yes, July 1st is the day that most NHL fans wake up too hoping to find that big gift they have had their hearts set on. For Lightning fans, lets hope that they find a piece of coal in their stocking.

For the past two years, the Lightning have gone out and pursued almost every big name free agent out there on July 1st. Some have worked out, and some have failed miserably. That approach to building a team has gotten the Lightning to where we stand today, and there are plenty of cap related reasons why this team should stand down on Thursday. I will leave that to the people that have written to that in the past. I am going to take a different approach as to why Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman should leave his cell phone at home later this week.

This team is not as bad as it showed at the end of last year.

There. Someone had to say it. And before anybody's sanity is questioned or the "homer" card is played, lets take a look at one very important fact. The Lightning were 6th in the eastern conference right before the Olympic break. Remember that team? They gave us our meaningful games down the stretch, and there was a while where they even the biggest pessimist believing that a postseason run was possible. So what happened? There are many theories as to what went wrong and most of them point back to one single move, and luckily the author of that decision has moved on. So where does all this leave this team now heading into the beginning of Unrestricted Free Agency?

It should be a fairly quiet next few days for the Lightning. And it needs to be. As a matter of fact, don't be surprised if the team that comes to camp in September looks A LOT like the team that left the ice last April. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a new GM and a new coach, and they need time to evaluate what they have. The system needs to be put in place. The roles need to be established. A major roster turnover now just does not make sense, and outside of some depth moves, and an affordable back up goalie, I would suspect the Lightning will look to their own free agents for now.

There are Lightning players set to hit unrestricted free agency this week that are very intriguing to me.

Kurtis Foster: On a team that is hurting for a right handed shot, he has one, and boy does he have one. There is also talk that he would give the Lightning a home team discount.

Zenon Konopka: Konopka was the glue that held that locker room together. Not to mention, if he were to move on, I would hate to see the season ticket holders making a David Koci like exit.

Antero Niittymaki: Niittymaki is something like 400-2-3 against the Southeast Division in his career, and he alone kept the Atlanta Thrashers out of the postseason last year. That makes him worth whatever he is asking. Sadly he will most likely be hitting free agency.

Alex Tanguay: Oh Alex. Where to begin on this one. He may hold the record for the quickest transition from most hyped (I claimed he was the missing piece to put the Lightning over the top just 11 short months ago) to most disliked player in Lightning history. But...and hear me out on this one...with a new system that appears to reward skilled forwards, and the idea that his contract would not be worth much more then league minimum, then just maybe Tanguay gets a mulligan here. I am not claiming that it will happen, or that its in anyone's plans, I can just see it making some sense. And I am not alone.

So Lightning fans, as we approach the beginning of Unrestricted Free Agency, as you fill out your wish lists, just keep in mind some of the points that have been mentioned. If you feel the need to add a Nabokov, or a Paul Martin, or even maybe a Dan Ellis to your list, then don't be surprised if you get a visit from the Grinch who stole July 1st.

I am planing on holding a live chat on July 1st to cover all the craziness, or lack there of. Stay tuned to my twitter account at @mcorcoran81 for all the details and links.

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