Matt Carle, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Sami Salo, Keith Aulie, Radko Gudas. Six defensemen, all inked to one-way contracts for the Tampa Bay Lightning next season. We repeat this fact because Keith Aulie signed a one-year, one-way deal with the Bolts on Wednesday afternoon. Aulie was seeing third-pair minutes in Tampa and spent the early part of 2012-13 (during the lockout) with the Syracuse Crunch.
Ok, so now what?
Until management says otherwise, things are not set on defense. While Radko Gudas was signed to a 3 year contract earlier this offseason, and Carle, Hedman, Salo and Brewer are all under contract for next season, something is still likely to change. How likely, I don't know, but likely. Trade? Buyout? Your guess is as good as mine.
The Bolts had a porous, disjointed defense during 2013. It was their crux that led to their downfall. While the team could score in bucket-loads, it couldn't protect a lead. There's an argument to make that not everything should be put on the defense with regard to the Bolts failures in their own end, but we've made a case about that issue already. The key change the organization has made to date is with the addition of assistant coach Rick Bowness replacing Dan LaCroix.
The off-season gets underway later this evening with the NHL amnesty buyout period beginning. Unrestricted free agency begins on July 5th. Stay tuned.