Steve Yzerman Named Lightning GM: Was It A Good Move???

May 26th, 2010 No Comments

Numerous media outlets are reporting that Steve Yzerman will be announced as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s General Manager at a 3:00 p.m. news conference this afternoon.

Yzerman had been working with the Detroit Red Wings as an executive. Most recently, he served as Team Canada’s general manager at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He will leave Detroit for what can only be described as a great situation in Tampa.

The Tampa situation does not come without it’s challenges but, given his resume and accomplishments, Yzerman’s should be able to solve them.

In Jeff Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally boast an owner who is both stable and has deep pockets.

Vinik, who bought the Lightning on March 3, 2010, has stated on many occasions that he is committed to recapturing the winning ways of the Lightning and to make the Lightning both a fixture in the community and a desirable/attractive place for NHL players to live and play.

Without question, Vinik’s hiring of Yzerman will go a long way in convincing players to sign in Tampa and Yzerman’s presence brings a certain amount of credibility to the Lightning franchise—this despite Yzerman’s lack of experienced as an NHL GM.

While the Lightning did miss the playoffs in 2009-10 it is widely believed that this is a franchise with a bright future. Youngsters Steven Stamkos (2009-10 NHL scoring leader), budding defenseman Victor Hedman and the rough and tumble Steve Downie provide the organization with three legitimate players to build a Stanley Cup Champion around.

Veterans Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Mattias Ohlund will continue to supply the leadership and experience and, as long as Lecavalier can find his game again, should contribute at an elite level offensively.

It is that base of talent, solid ownership and perceived upside that has attracted Yzerman to Tampa—well, that and a whole lot of money and a five year term!

The Lightning are not without holes. Yzerman will be on the hunt for defensive depth and some more “grit”. Another area Yzerman is likely to look to improve will be between the pipes.

According to nhlnumbers.com the Lightning have a total of $39.6 million committed to 12 players next season with Lecavalier taking up a monstrous portion of that Cap space at $7.727 million cap hit per season. St. Louis will have a cap hit of $5.25 million next season, while Ryan Malone will take up an additional $4.5 million in cap space.

It is believed that the salary cap for the 2010-11 season will come in around $56.8 million, Clearly, with about $17.5 million wrapped up in three players Yzerman will have to make some tough decisions this summer, perhaps even electing to look for a trading partner for one of his big three forwards.

The Montreal Canadiens have long been rumored to be interested in Lecavalier as have a few other NHL clubs. That said, with such a hefty contract, Lecavalier will likely prove to be next to impossible to move.

One can never underestimate the cache that the Yzerman name brings with it. With that in mind, expect players that otherwise would not have entertained the idea of playing in Tampa at the conclusion of the regular season to give Yzerman and the Lightning a second look.

On Defense the Lightning may be able to attract the likes of unrestricted free agents Dan Hamhuis, Dennis Seidenberg or perhaps he could even convince the likes of old friend Nicklas Lidstrom to T-Bay??? (ok, that may be going too far!)

Offensively the Lightning could use a dose of both grit and finesse on the wings. Tough nosed players that can also light the lamp will be tough to come by this of-season, but one has to think Yzerman will have interest in the likes of Raffi Torres, Matt Cooke, Colby Armstrong and maybe even veteran winger Paul Kariya—who would likely come cheap and would benefit from playing alongside the likes of Stamkos and/or Lecavalier.

Might Yzerman bring Kariya in on a bargain basement one year deal? One thing is for sure, Kariya’s veteran presence would benefit this club, as would his scoring prowess.

In between the pipes Yzerman will look to upgrade from Mike Smith and UFA Antero Nittymaki. With so little talent from which to choose via free agency Yzerman will have to go the trade route or promote from within (which is unlikely).

Dan Ellis (31) may be a viable option/stop-gap, but he’s probably not the answer in net either. Then again, the way the Stanley Cup playoffs have gone with the likes of Michael Leighton and Jaroslav Halak emerging the way they have, anything is possible, right?

Everyone wants to know: did Yzerman make a good choice in becoming the Tampa Bay Lightning’s general manager?

On the surface, Yzerman has a good base to work with. Great ownership in Vinik who is both committed and has deep pockets, a fairly deep and talented roster and Yzerman has the ability to both identify talent and sign them as he sees fit—nobody will be questioning his moves or be looking over his shoulders.

With Detroit Red Wings Ken Holland and Jim Nill expected to be a part of the Wings organization it was very unlikely that Yzerman was going to be able to get a chance to be an NHL GM for years to come.

Tampa, while not perfect, is an excellent opportunity for Yzerman, one that will only get better as he has time to put his stamp on the club—only time will tell if, like the evolution of Yzerman himself, if Yzerman can build the Lightning into a Stanley Cup Champion…Stev

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