Tampa Bay Lightning
Bolts Beat: It's not time to make a goalie deal
TAMPA - The topic du jour during a Tampa Bay Lightning season that continues to slide downhill continues to be this: What will general manager Steve Yzerman do about the goaltending? It's a question repeatedly asked throughout the past month as the duo of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon have fallen to the bottom of the league rankings with a combined 3.37 goals against average just past the halfway mark in the season. The goaltending has been an Achilles' heel, but certainly is not the only reason this team is on the verge of dropping into the Eastern Conference basement. But what a goaltender can do for a team is instill confidence or kill it. For the most part this season, it's been the later as goals have gotten through both goaltenders that can make skaters sag their shoulders. So, back to the point: What is to be done about it?Some want a trade now to help fix the leakiest hole on a sinking ship. Bring in Evgeni Nabokov, Antero Niittymaki or any other available player with an expiring contract to stabilize the position, much the way Roloson did last season after coming over from the New York Islanders. But the playoffs seem like a long shot at this point, so ask yourself if it would be worthwhile to give up an asset, such as a draft pick or prospect, for a rental player when reaching the postseason would take a near historic second half run. What about Dustin Tokarski, you ask, the No. 1 goaltender right now for the Norfolk Admirals in the American Hockey League. The team's fifth-round pick in 2008 has respectable numbers with a 15-9 record, 2.41 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. While you never know unless you try, bringing up Tokarski is not the answer right now. At some point the 22-year-old probably gets a call, but it will be for the Lightning brass to get a closer look at him at the NHL level. Tokarski is set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and the team needs to determine if he could be a long-term answer. How about trading for a possible long-term answer, such as Vancouver's Cory Schneider, 25, or Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier, 24. Those types of deals do not often take place in season, particularly for teams that have Stanley Cup aspirations, as Vancouver and Los Angeles do this season, unless there is a glaring need elsewhere on the roster. And for Tampa Bay, that would mean parting with a significant player, prospect or high-round draft pick. That's not likely to happen this season. To the chagrin of many, the team most likely will move forward this season riding Roloson and Garon to wherever they take it. It's not the answer many fans want to hear. This team came within one victory of reaching the Stanley Cup final last season and had many believing seasons such as this one were in the rearview mirror for the immediate future. But to ensure seasons such as this are an aberration and not the norm in the future, it's not worth the price it would take to address the need now. Strengthening the goaltending will be one of Yzerman's summer projects. And with unrestricted options such as Minnesota's Josh Harding, 27, and St. Louis all-star Brian Elliott, 26, the trade route is not the only option.
[email protected] (813) 259-7835