The NHL's "free agent feeding frenzy" has come and gone for another year. Some teams gained, some teams lost and there were a lot of big bucks thrown at some of those free agents. There were some minor league free agents lost by the Bolts, but for the purposes of this question, let's refer to the ones that were with the Lightning at some point last season.
So, how did Tampa Bay do in retaining its free agents? Well, let's see...
Sean Bergenheim? Bye-bye. Simon Gagne? Sorry Gags, see ya around. Mike Lundin? Sayonara, Mike. Mike Smith? Gone. Matt Smaby? Nice knowing ya. Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos? So long boys. Oh. Wait. That one hasn't happened? So sorry, my mistake.
OK, so my question to the Raw Charge staff this week is: Who do you think will be the hardest to replace among the departed players (who will be the biggest loss)? And how would you like to see them replaced? Go the free agent or trade route? Or fill the spots internally and give one of the "kids" a chance?
The Raw Charge staff waded into the fray on these questions. Their answers and a poll after the jump. Feel free to discuss it amongst yourselves as we await the new season. Training camp starts in approximately 65 days.
Mike Lundin on defense.
Lets go back to some facts on the three marquee losses to unrestricted free agency by the Lightning: Sean Bergenheim, who was a third line grinder who scored 29 points last season, Simon Gagne - who was oft injured and put up a total of 40 points when he did play, and Mike Smith - do I need to elaborate here? All three departures have been lamented (see John Romano's piece in the St. Pete Times) but none were irreplacable.
Lundin, on the other hand, was one of the few dependable defensemen the Lightning have produced over the last few years. Complain about his 2011 playoff performance all you want, Lundin was fantastic during the regular season as a shutdown D.
The Lightning have brought in two new players to fill in on defense, Matt Gilroy and Bruno Gervais, but neither are of the same variety of defenseman that Lundin was. That doesn't mean that they won't contribute on their own, in a different way, to the Lightning. It's more a testament that the Bolts moved away from the stay-at-home type defenseman that Lundin was.
I think of any of them, the hardest to replace is probably Cedrick Desjardins. Dustin Tokarski might be a better player in the end, but Desjardins was ready for the NHL now. He should've been the backup for Dwayne Roloson this year, giving him a year of seasoning, and then been the starter the following season. As of right now, they're sort of up a creek without a paddle in terms of goaltending talent. Roloson's signed for one season, and he's 40 years old, while Mathieu Garon is signed for two years and isn't really starter material. I think that the Lightning need to bring in another younger goalie or two to shore up the position. You can never have too many good goaltenders, after all - and if you do, you can always trade them for other talent.
Of course, I guess it's possible that might not happen so on the off-chance that it doesn't, I'd say I think we're going to miss Sean Bergenheim. I know he "only" contributed 29 points but he seemed like such a good fit in coach Boucher's system and within the team itself. I'd like to see Richard Panik get a shot at fill that roster spot.
Matt Amos (Don't Trade Vinny)
Although the trendy pick would likely be Simon Gagne, I will personally miss Cedrick Desjardins the most. He has a lot of potential, and the workload he took on was vital to allow the other prospects (DustinTokarski, Jaroslav Janus) to not rush their development.
Depth at the goal tending position has never exactly been a strength of the Lightning, it was nice for the one year we had it.
I'm going to miss the Dan Ellis jokes...But since the question is about who we lost in free agency, not who we traded away, my answer is: nobody.
Really, I'm not particularly bothered by any of the players who walked away from the Lightning this summer unless Sean Begenheim suddenly starts scoring 30 goals for the Panthers or Simon Gagne can make it through a season without getting injured. It will be hindsight if that happens, but really, what are the chances?