Recent roster moves clear cap space and the Tampa Bay Lightning fourth line

Nate Thompson had been a mainstay on the Tampa Bay Lighting bottom-six since he was claimed off waivers from the New York Islanders in 2010. - Mike Carlson

On the eve of the 2014 NHl free agent signing period, the Bolts clearest roster need is now on the lower lines.

Since Friday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning have made four trades, one bolstering the blueline (with a collegiate included), three shedding forward depth and salary.  Jason Garrison and Jeff Costello are the organization depth additions while Teddy Purcell, B.J. Crombeen and Nate Thompson are the subtractions.

While the elaborate salary dump of Teddy Purcell (by way of acquiring Sam Gagner before dealing him and Crombeen for a late round 2015 draft pick) seemed like a long time coming move, it's the trade of Nate Thompson (coupled with the Crombeen dump) that puzzles me the most.  Fans in comments are latching on to big-name free agent potential acquisitions and the issue that is rubbing me roughly and in the wrong was is that the opportunities created by last night's deals aren't necessarily in the top-six.

Tampa Bay traded off its fourth line, folks. You're even able to throw in the Ryan Malone compliance buyout as being part of a fourth-line ravaging.

I'm left puzzled how Steve Yzerman plans to work from here; who will be demoted to fourth line work, will he be investing in unrestricted free agents?  Who from Syracuse will find their way on to the roster with thanks to the recent subtractions?

Going by way of forward line corps roster use last season, this is generally what the lineup looks like right now:

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Space For Rent
Alex KillornValtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan
Nikita Kucherov - Tyler Johnson - J.T. Brown

??? - ??? - Richard Panik

Panik and J.T. Brown could easily be swapped.  That lineup also does not include Cody Kunyk, the collegiate free agent Tampa Bay signed during the 2013-14 season who traveled with the team after his signing but only participated in one NHL game. He's unsigned at this point, along with Panik.

This listing also doesn't take into account Jonathan Drouin is waiting to be inserted into the lineup at left wing or at center (as the organization has interest at converting him into a center) nor 2010 1st round draft pick Brett Connolly who has been waiting to get another extended shot in the NHL.  While Connolly had seen some time (during a call-up) on the lower lines in Tampa, I wouldn't expect the Bolts to slate Drouin to start as a fourth liner, charged with defensive-first play.

Perhaps Kunyk and Costello (a left wing) is ultimately who Tampa Bay had slated to take over fourth line duties?  That'd be something of a reach, as both will be playing their first seasons of pro hockey come the fall.

My point is, as it stands, the need in Tampa Bay is on the lower lines.  While the organization has depth in the system to fill out roster spots, it may be something Steve Yzerman has his eye on retooling via free agency.

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