As it stands right now, there's a single hole left on the Lightning's top two lines. With Alex Tanguay now on the roster, the Bolts have their left wing's secured (Ryan Malone, Tanguay) and their center's are easily decided (Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos). But on right wing there is only one player who is a certainty to play on either of the top two lines -- Martin St. Louis.
With the Bolts unlikely to sign another free agent to fill the void and though a trade should not be counted out, odds are the Lightning will fill that spot with one of their own young players.
It's just anyone's guess who that will be.
Take a look at the depth chart for the Bolts at the right wing position (courtesy of Bolt Prospects depth rankings):
- Carter Ashton
- Richard Panik
- Kyle DeCoste
- Matias Sointu
- Matt Marshall
- Ilya Solarev
- Pavel Sedov
The unsigned group are prospects and recent draft picks by the Lightning. While it's not impossible for these guys to make the jump from juniors to the pros, it's highly unlikely.
The real competition seems to be between Steve Downie (acquired last year from the Philadelphia Flyers), Lauri Toukenen (former first round draft pick, acquired from the Dalllas Stars), Martins Karsums (acquired last spring in the Mark Recchi trade) and Dana Tyrell (drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft).
It's safe to assume Martins Karsums has the inside track on this contest, as he's had a stable career at the pro-level (AHL and NHL) and having a record of production at all levels (sans the NHL level, where he broke into the league with the Bolts after the trade). The 23 year old Czech averaged 51 points a season over three seasons in the QMJHL and 46 over three seasons in the AHL for the Providence Bruins.
Dana Tyrell is an up-and-coming star without the experience. During the summer Young Guns camp in July, Tyrell impressed with his speed and play-making ability. He will be making the full-time Pro jump this season after playing with the Prince George Cougars the majority of the last four seasons. He's also recovered from an on-ice knee injury sustained during the World Junior Championships last winter and fought to prove it during the Young Guns camp. He's an underdog for a chance to play at the NHL level this season, but I would not count him out -- not by a longshot.
Lauri Tukonen can either be chronicled as an enigma or a dark horse in this contest. He warranted a first-round draft selection by the LA Kings in the 2004 NHL entry draft and consistently chipped in points in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs before returning to Finland last season.
Then we come to the player with the most experience of the contenders for that right wing slot: Steve Downie. Downie's self-control and impulse-control issues do not permit him to be a serious contender for a top spot on the Lightning depth chart, no matter how much people admire his grit and skills he has... Think of raw nitroglicerine being transported on a bumpy road -- it's an accident waiting to happen. That's Downie, unless he mellows out at one point or another.
The door is ultimately wide open for anyone to step up and show they deserve to be the second top six right wing on this squad. If that happens during training camp, we're in for a very interesting season. If not? The Bolts will likely muddy along with a by-committee staffing of the position until such a time when a trade materializes or they become certain they can get along with only five bonafide top line forwards.
What do you think? Whose got the inside track of crackign the roster? Will the Bolts stand pat or make a pre-season move to add more depth at right-wing?