In the 2009-2010 season, Tampa Bay Lightning was having a hard time. After their magical cup run in 03-04 they just never found their magic again. Making it once to the playoffs but losing in the first round, then missing the playoffs for the next three seasons. Finishing in last, 2nd last, and 6th last in the following three seasons. Something had to be done. Owner Jeff Vinik made a choice that almost all the rest of the other teams in the NHL would do in a heartbeat. Vinik in May of 2010 hired Steve Yzerman to be their GM; it would be a move that changes the franchise from a pushover, to the tops of the NHL. Yzerman has a winning track record as a player. But in the 2010 Olympics, Yzerman assembled the gold medal winning team (Team Canada) which captured the attention of the hockey world.
It was time for Yzerman to change up the Lightning, and he would be possibly the most successful GM in Lightning history. In just one year, from 25th place in the NHL, he would change the makeup of his team so they were one goal away from a Stanley Cup appearance. Many teams, it would take years of rebuilding, but Yzerman did it in one season.
During the offseason after the 09-10 season, Yzerman decided that he would take a gamble in the Entry Draft. He chose with his 6th overall pick, a forward in Brett Connolly who has a history of injury problems. Yzerman responded to the press by saying "I think it was a factor that he was available with the 6th pick. Because if he had been healthy all year, based on everything I know, he would not have been available with the 6th pick." Yzerman would then make a few key moves after free agent starts which will make Tampa Bay a winning hockey team. Yzerman sent out veteran defenseman, who is one of the great defenseman on the Lightning. He got a 2nd round pick from the Flyers for Andrej Mesazaros. By trading Meszaros out, he gained $4 million in cap space for the next few years. With Meszaros being traded off, the extra cap allowed a franchise player in St. Louis to get an extention. St. Louis is a huge part of developing young star, sniper Steven Stamkos. St. Louis got a lucrative 4-year contract extension worth $22.5 million. About three weeks later, Yzerman stuck another deal with Flyers. Lightning traded Matt Walker for a proven high scoring winger, Simon Gagne. Gagne in his first season with the Lightning will play 63 regular season games, and tally 40 points. Yzerman would then sign forwards Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Marc-Antoine Pouliot along with defensemen Brett Clark, Randy Jones and Pavel Kubina, goaltender Dan Ellis and the re-signing of restricted free agent forward Steve Downie to a 2-year, $3.7 million deal. Most people would say that the signing of Moore is the best signing, as he is one of the best faceoff guys in the NHL, and one of the best penalty killers. With Yzerman, Lightning would have one of the most feared special teams units in the NHL.
There was one final move that Tampa had to do to prove they were Stanley Cup contenders, and not pretenders. With their starting goalie Mike Smith hurt, Tampa had troubles winning games, and was falling out of the playoff race. Yzerman traded in Dwane Roloson, a veteran goalie who can win on any given night. Roloson will go 18-12 with the Lightning to secure them a birth in the playoffs. Tampa Bay would finish the season 46–25–11 record with 103 points, matching a franchise record for wins in a season. Their record was good enough for second in the Southeast Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference, and they returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2006–07 season. Losing to the Stanley Cup Champions in the Conference Finals by one goal, in game 7 is an accomplishment for this franchise.
With Yzerman under GM, Tamp has a really bright future. He changed the franchise around in just once season. Tampa has a great future, Stamkos, and Hedman are just two of the big names they have right now. With the young players coming into Tampa, this organization will see a lot of great highlights in the coming years, and possibly another Stanley Cup!