(Editor's Note: over the course of the next week, we'll be previewing the 2011-12 Tampa Bay Lightning season with a series of articles exploring the team)
The 2010-2011 Season featured a dominate performance by GM Steve Yzerman. Every transaction pulled off by the rookie GM worked to an absolute tee. As a result, the team blew past expectations and came within an armpit's stink of playing for the Stanley Cup.
The one aspect, though, of how Steve Yzerman operates - trying to avoid as many long-term contracts as possible and signing most players to one and two-year deals - brings with it lots of decisions every offseason. This past offseason nailed that point home, as there were several players up for new contracts, both UFA and RFA. As a result, of course, we have a core that is exactly the same as last year, and the role players, the peripherals if you will, are much different. We'll start with who has left the team after the fold.
Mike Smith, G.
Many of the Lightning faithful were overjoyed to see the departure of Mike Smith. Myself included. And despite having injury problems throughout his Bolt tenure, and often being susceptible to mental lapses, Smith was clutch down the stretch and in his limited time in the playoffs. Clutch enough to finally earn a reprieve from being the big piece the Lightning got for Brad Richards? Doubtful. Clutch enough to be missed next season? Time will tell.
Smith signed with the Phoenix Coyotes for 2-years, $4 million.
Simon Gagne, LW.
The Bolts version of Simon Gagne was a lot like every other version of Simon Gagne. He suffered through an injury to the head/neck area, and then once the symptoms finally lifted went on to put up some pretty good offensive numbers. And despite indicating a desire to re-sign with the Lightning, he was not in the cards for the Bolts, and was not offered a contract.
Gagne signed with the Los Angeles Kings for 2-years, $7 million.
Sean Bergenheim, LW.
Many fans were upset to see the Lightning not try harder to make something work with Bergenheim, after he exploded in the playoffs for nine goals, and 11 points. But the fact remains that the only place for Bergenheim with the Bolts is on the third line for third line dollars. Sean wasn't down with that, and left for the Florida Panthers spending spree.
Bergenheim signed with the Panthers for 4-years, $11 million. (!!)
Randy Jones, D.
Jones was pretty much a bargain bin pick up for the Lightning, and though I felt he performed just fine, was treated like one for his single-year tenure with the Bolts. He was offered a one-year contract for a reason, and is now a member of the division rival (for one year!) Winnipeg Jets.
Jones signed with the Jets for 1-year, $1.15 million.
Mike Lundin, D.
Lundin, a draft pick of the Lightning back in 2004, had by all intents and purposes, a great season for the Bolts in 2010-2011. Generally a 'stay home' kind of guy, Lundin was often the only guy back to help Mike Smith, Dan Ellis, and later Dwayne Roloson, on the inevitable odd man rush the Bolts would give up. At the end of the day though, the Lightning are looking for defenders with more offensive prowess.
Lundin signed with the Minnesota Wild for 1-year, $1 million.
Matt Smaby, D.
Smaby, much like Lundin, is a defensive defenseman with simply just not enough offensive potential to earn a look with the new system taught by coach Guy Boucher. Smaby was an RFA after the 2010-2011 season, but was not tendered a qualifying offer.
Smaby signed with the Anaheim Ducks for 1-year, $600,000.
Mathieu Garon, G.
Garon seemingly, is the perfect fit for a number of reasons for the Bolts. A career backup, he's comfortable with the role expected of him, but does have experience playing a big bulk of games which will help keep Roloson fresh. He has always posted very respectable numbers, including a 2.72 GAA, a .901 SV%, and 3 shutouts in 36 games with the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets last season. Even better? He's played behind Roloson before with the Edmonton Oilers, and the two have a great relationship. Best yet? He backed up the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2008-2009. Factor in that he signed for a paltry $2.6 million over 2 years? Perfect move for Yzerman and the Lightning.
Ryan Shannon, RW.
After floating around the minors and the Western Conference for a few years, Shannon found a role with the Ottawa Senators the past three seasons and has played respectably, including career bests last season (with an awful squad) in games played (79), goals (11), assists (16), and points (27). He'll be looked upon to be the Sean Bergenheim of this season, as well as chip in physically, as he has chipped in his share of PIMs in the past years. Shannon signed for a cheap 1-year, $625,000.
Bruno Gervais, D.
Gervais plays the role this year of Randy Jones. Picked up for future considerations, Bruno has slowed down the past two season with the Islanders, but who hasn't? Gervais is a smaller defenseman (6'0'', 188lbs) who has shown offensive flare in the past. Like Jones, if this experiment doesn't work, he's likely gone after this season. Look for Guy Boucher to work his magic though.
Matt Gilroy, D.
Gilroy, who went undrafted, was a complete stud in college with Boston University, winning the Hobey Baker Award, and also made a fair impact on the blueline in his limited exposure with the New York Rangers. He's an offensive minded defender, and with the guidance of the Bolts coaching staff could explode for a huge season. And if he doesn't he's only signed for 1-year, $1 million.
Tom Pyatt, C.
Pyatt, much like Dominic Moore, is a grinder/energy type guy with some offensive upside. With a two-way, 1-year, $525,000 contract, we might not see Pyatt much this season, unless the injury bug strikes the team. But there again, low risk/potential high reward for Yzerman and the Lightning.