Internal solutiosn for the 3rd-line center roll exist in players like Nate Thompson. This is why you should not expect further big-name shopping in free agency by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On Sunday, July 1st, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed free agent defenseman Sami Salo two a two-year deal. On Wednesday, July 4th, the Bolts made their second free agent acquisition when they brought defenseman Matt Carle into the fold with a 6-year contract.
On the morning of July 5th, it's safe to assume this completes the high-end signing portion of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2012 off-season. Thank you for tuning in. Remember to drive safely on the Internet Superhighway on your way home.
What is that supposed to mean? Tampa Bay is done with their free agent acquisitions - at least, at the NHL level. Defensive depth at the top was what the Bolts set out to acquire, and now that this has been accomplished... Well, it's time to take a breather while keeping an eye out for cogs that will bolster the Syracuse Crunch roster (and who could fit in Tampa in a pinch).
It's not sexy to think about, as it mutes speculation and fantasy for the idle masses, but really - it's most likely done. There are two outstanding contracts left to be signed in goaltenders Anders Lindback and Jaroslav Janus. After that, the possibility of a trade going down (for what and involving who is anyone's guess) is always there.
There's enough forward depth in the system that the Lightning don't need to go shopping for a 3rd-line center, as has been mentioned as the one remaining position of perceived need for the team. That -- the lack-of-need -- is especially true when you look at how many centers are in the system (via Bolt Prospects depth chart):
- Steven Stamkos
- Vincent Lecavalier
- Nate Thompson
- Adam Hall
- Mike Angelidis
- Kyle Wilson
- Alex Killorn
- Tyler Johnson
- Vladislav Namestnikov
- Danick Gauthier
With talk of the 3rd-line center roll being open and something to chase in free agency, I can't help but look at Nate Thompson and wonder what's wrong with him filling the spot? The fact he's so good playing every role Guy Boucher puts him in must relegate him to third line duties? He's not a scoring threat?
Thompson does his job, and does it effectively enough to enable his linemates.
The mock-pairings on defense started among fans shortly after the Carle signing became official. It's probably safe to suggest that you can do the same with the forward lines - just mix in the likes of Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson somewhere in those mockups.