Keith Aulie re-signed by Lightning; what's next for the defense?

Jean-Yves Ahern-US PRESSWIRE

With Aulie back in the fold, the defense seems set for next season... Or is it?

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.

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