Who should the Bolts sign this summer?: UFA D-men and goalies

This summer, Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is likely to be looking to fill in the holes on the defense and in the net. It's unclear exactly what sort of players he's going to be looking for, but "young" and "proven" are likely to be pretty high on his checklist. Going by the numbers from capgeek.com, as of June 15 the Lightning will have 14 players under contract for 2012-13 with a total cap payroll (full bonuses are included) of $45,263,583.

So, where does that leave the team? It's hard to say, but fun to speculate. I have to start, though by laying out my assumptions:

  • Same salary cap of $63.4 million. It's likely to go up; it may go down. We just don't know. That means that there will be approximately $19 million available.

  • Ohlund will play in 2012-13. Again we just don't know. If he retires the team gets $3.8 million; if he's still on Long-Term Injured Reserve, the team can get a credit for what they spend above the cap to replace him.

  • Cory Conacher will be signed for about the same amount as Brett Connolly.

  • The team won't spend a whole lot more than 10% above what they are spending now on the 4 forward other spots that will be open, whether its on extensions/re-signs or on new guys: I budgeted $8 million, which gives about $1.8 million cushion above that 10% increase.

This leaves $11 million for 3 defensemen and a goalie. Right now, I'm just looking at UFAs, because there's no personnel trading involved. It's all about the money. These are just suggestions, of course--really just a starting point for the discussion. They're not in any particular order. Make a case for your choices, either ones I've suggested or someone I've forgotten, in the comments.

Defensemen:

3. Jason Garrison, Florida Panthers, 27 years old

  • Current cap hit: $675,000
  • 2011-12 numbers: 42 GP, 11 G, 7 A, 7 PPG, +6, 24:12 ATOI, 14 PIM, 97 shots
  • Career numbers: per game: 0.12 G, 0.17 A, 0.40 PIM, 1.52 shots, 20:57 ATOI
  • Notes: Started out as a shutdown defenseman for the Panthers, but has been moved into a more offensive role lately and has done well. One of the more underrated d-men out there.

2. Dennis Wideman. Washington Capitals, 28 years old

  • Current cap hit: $3.9M;
  • 2011-12 numbers: 40 GP, 8 G, 20 A, 4 PPG, -3, 24:07 ATOI
  • Career numbers: per game: 0.13 G, 0.34 A, 0.69 PIM, 2.03 shots, 23:13ATOI
  • Notes: now that he's an All-Star, his price will go up. Logs a lot of minutes, offensive upside. Lots of Caps fans seem to find him frustrating, though--some bad along with the good, as it were.

1. Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators, 26 years old (because we can still dream, can't we?)

  • Current cap hit: $3.5M
  • 2011-12 numbers: 42 GP, 5 G, 20 A, 3 PPG, +8, 27:00 ATOI, 26 PIM, 82 shots
  • Career numbers: per game: 0.07 G, 0.36 A, 0.78 PIMs, 1.54 shots, 22:24 ATOI
  • Notes: projected cap hit $7M; mobile, smart, power play quarterback; great vision, eats lots of minutes, great leadership; has only been negative in +/- once in his career (-16 in 2008-09), Olympic silver medalist, All-Star Game in 2012.

Goalies:

3. Al Montoya, New York Islanders. 26 years old

  • Current cap hit: $601,000
  • 2011-12 numbers: 17GP, 6-5-3, 2.46 GAA, .917 SV%
  • Career numbers: 42GP, 18-11-8, 2.38 GAA, .920 SV%
  • Notes: Currently dealing with a concussion issue after a collision in December. It's hard at this point to know what kind of goalie he'll end up being with only 42 NHL games played over three years. As part of the three-headed goalie monster the Isles have to tame, though, it's possible that he could be pried away at a reasonable price.

2. Tomas Vokoun, Washington Capitals. 35 years old.

  • Current cap hit: $1.5 MM
  • 2011-12 numbers: 29 GP, 16-10-0, 2.66 GAA, .912 SV%
  • Career numbers: 661 GP, 278-277-76, 2.56 GAA, .917 SV%
  • Notes: I'm throwing this one out there because I can see a scenario where it makes sense to the front office: if they have a great deal of faith in Tokarski after the end of this season. Vokoun would be a short-term rental, putting the problem off for another year or two, but there's little question that on sheer ability alone he's better than Garon. I'm guessing that Vokoun would really, really like that price to go up over the summer, but he might be gun shy this time around.

1. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild. 27 years old.

  • Current cap hit: $750,000
  • 2011-12 numbers: 17GP, 8-4-2, 2.15 GAA, .932 SV%
  • Career numbers: 100 GP, 36-43-6, 2.57 GAA, .918 SV%
  • Notes: Harding is an injury risk. In the five years since he made the jump from call-up to backup, he's never played more than 29 games in a season. He's had hip trouble, knee trouble, and a concussion. He missed all--I repeat, ALL--of 2010-11 with a knee injury. He does have the talent to be an above average goaltender, though, if he can prove durability. Plus, that injury history is likely to keep his price reasonable. In fact he made $1.1 million in 2009-10 and $1.2 million in 2010-11.
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