Let’s be fair, the dude that ran the lightning didn’t have a perfect team when he took it over. Jonathan Quick was no longer an NEFHL starter, our prospect cupboard was bare and we weren’t necessarily in the best salary cap situation.
To solve our goaltending problems, he went out and grabbed Braden Holtby and in the same trade picked up Artemi Panarin and got rid of Jonathan Quick. Sounds fantastic at a quick glance, however it cost a lot in youth to accomplish that feat. We gave up the 3rd overall pick, an early 2nd round pick and a 1st round pick in 2020 along with promising defensive prospect Calen Addison who is currently playing in the World Juniors for team Canada.
In the end, we did get the best player in the deal in Panarin and if we are going to compete moving forward it really isn’t that terrible to give up youth. However a ton of maneuvering occurred where all of a sudden there were 8 NEFHL rated defensemen on the roster, trading a cheap Eric Gustafson with amazing ratings for an up and comer D and a young forward in Jake Virtanen who doesn’t have great ratings and will cost a lot. It just really seemed like there was no direction and really no concern for the 45 million dollar salary cap.
To tie it all together was the free agent contract given to Mike Hoffman. He had just traded for Panarin who was going to be a UFA after his 2 year contract was up so he decided, heck why not give Hoffman the same term so that we will be in a position to have two players we want to re-sign but are only able to protect one of them.
When I took back control of the team I decided that there was no way to get under the cap with the roster I had so tough decisions needed to be made. Unfortunately Jarred Spurgeon became a cap casualty and was traded to the Wild. Luckily for us, Virtanen is only 23 years old so we were able to bury his contract in the minors. We also found a deal where we can pick up a solid 2nd line center and a top pair defenseman in exchange for a pylon in Ceci, an unproven 3rd line center and a very serviceable to 6 winger in Nyqvist. We upgraded our center and defense while dealing from a position of strength on our wing while also putting us in a now reasonable cap situation. We also took advantage of the waiver wire to strengthen our bottom 6 forwards and bottom pairing D.
After all of these moves we are a competitive team in the eastern conference with very manageable cap situation. There may still be some tough decisions to be made during the season, especially if the team starts to struggle, but for now, we are just enjoying competing day in and day out and are thankful for some much needed stability on our team and in the front office.
Happy New Year everyone!!!