So what is the biggest problem with the Lightning right now? Is it offense, goaltending, defense? Pick your poison if you will. There is room for improvement in all positions. Tonight, we’ll take a look at some of the free agent defenseman available at year’s end to see who I feel would fit in with the Lightning moving forward. You know things are bad with the team when you start talking about free agency in....December. But, what can I say, this topic interests me. The Lightning are going to need a lot of help and the blueline is no exception.
Without further ado, here is my list of five defensemen the Lightning should target this summer.
Few guys in this league have as much character as Willie Mitchell. When he left the Canucks to sign with the Los Angeles Kings, it was a really sad day for a lot of Canuck fans. He is a true warrior and a great ambassador for the game of hockey. He’s not the fastest guy but in my opinion he is one of the top shutdown D-men in the league. The Lighting really don’t have a player like Mitchell. Right now, Mitchell is making $3.5million with the Kings. What would it take to sign him? Well, as a veteran guy, his prime years are behind him. I figure that you could sign Mitchell to a multi-year deal for $2-$3million.
He may not be the best defensive-defenseman but he can move the puck. Though he didn’t work out well in Toronto, Beauchemin is a proven performer in the playoffs. With Anaheim, he established himself as one of the more well-rounded puck movers in the Western Conference. He’s not the biggest guy, the fastest guy or the strongest guy, but he gets the job done night after night. He can play on the power-play while still maintaining fair defensive awareness. Currently making $3.8million, Francois would probably have to take a pay-cut to come down to Tampa.
Here is VERY underrated player. He can skate, move the puck well and is very talented in the defensive end. He’s one of those guys that has his named floated around the rumor mill yet you never really know much about him. The reason for his name being out there is that lots of GMs realize just how good this guy is. Playing in Dallas, Grossman doesn’t get the spotlight he would in let’s say, Toronto, but he is really effective at what he does and he will be attractive to a lot of teams looking for D-men this summer. All that said, is he out of our price range? He’s in for a hefty pay increase.
Yes, I know he is already with the Lightning, but he is indeed a free agent at season’s end. Why do I think the Lightning should re-sign the Czech blueliner? Simple, he brings a size dynamic that really isn’t seen from a lot of players in this league. Sure, Hedman is tall, but does he play the same style of game that Kubina plays? I’d argue no. Kubina has shown that he can be a really effective player in all situations. He takes some heat at times but overall I do feel like he remains a good fit in Tampa.
This one may not have a shot at happening because of his potential asking price, but man would I love to see Josh Gorges skating around in a Lightning jersey. Gorges is one of those guys that will do anything for his team. He is hard-working, personable and apparently a great teammate. Talk to Montreal fans and they will tell you how much they need this guy. He is so valuable to whoever he plays for. Guys like him just don’t pop up on the free agent market all the time. In fact, there’s a good chance Gorges doesn’t make it to the market as you can bet the Habs’ brass will be doing everything to get him under contract for a really long time. So yes, it’s a long shot, but out of all the free agent defenseman who may be available, I think he’s the best fit.
I know I left names like Weber, Suter and Lidstrom off this list. And yes, it’s true that all are going to be “available” come the summer. But in all honesty, there’s no real shot at the Lightning acquiring any of those guys. If Lidstrom plays, it is in Detroit. As for the other two, wherever they play, they are going to be expensive, hot commodities. So, I put together a list of players who I felt may be obtainable. Do you agree with my picks? Who would you like to see in a Lightning jersey on the blueline next season?
I’ll continue this little series with forwards and goalies as the week goes on. Thanks for reading and have a good night.
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