In mid-November the Tampa Bay Lightning made a minor trade. They sent Michael Leighton and Tye McGinn to Arizona for Louis Domingue. At the time it didn’t much of a ripple among the fan base. After all, what importance does a swap of AHL talent mean to a club that was laying waste to the NHL? Now the deal might not be such a small deal.
On Friday night backup netminder Peter Budaj was doing his best to keep the Lightning in the game against the Flyers. Midway through the third period, with the Bolts trailing by one goal, Flyers forward Scott Laughton sideswiped Budaj and the goalie was injured on the play. He had to be helped off of the ice and was unable to put any weight on his left leg.
The extent of his injury is unknown at this time, but in the postgame press conference Coach Cooper admitted that the team might have to call someone up. A call up has now been made, and that someone is Domingue:
UPDATE: Peter Budaj is going on injured reserve, Louis Domingue being recalled by #TBLightning— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) December 30, 2017
Yzerman is not sure how long Peter Budaj will be out. With IR, at least seven days. I was surprised to see Budaj walking around ok postgame— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) December 30, 2017
So who is Louis Boileau-Domingue? He is a 2010 fifth round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes. He has 84 games of NHL experience and enjoyed his best season in 2015-16 when he appeared in 39 games for the Coyotes, posting a 2.75 GAA and .912 SV%. His numbers dipped a bit in 2016-17 and he quickly became the odd man out when Arizona traded for Antti Raanta in the offseason. After struggling through 7 games to start this season he was demoted to the AHL and then traded to Syracuse, where he has been pretty good.
What type of goalie can Lightning fans expect to see? To answer that question we reached out to our SBNation friends, and Cat Silverman was kind enough to share an article she wrote at the time of the trade. As for his style, she said, “[H]e plays a conservative style based on positioning and efficient movement, staying within the blue paint and minimizing early drops for delayed lateral movement.”
Unlike Andrei Vasilevskiy, who relies more on his agility and freakish athleticism, Domingue is a quieter goalie who has to trust his positioning and angles. When he’s at his best he is square to the shooter and in position to limit or smoother rebounds. If his positioning is off then he is going to struggle not only on difficult shots, but also easier ones. As Cat pointed out in her article, he was victimized by low and medium-danger shots, an issue that, while not inspiring a lot of confidence, can hopefully be fixed with some minor adjustments to his technique.
It seems his time in Syracuse may have helped him find a fix to some of those flaws. Goalie Coach Karl Goehring described his recent play with the Crunch thus: "I think from his game standpoint, (he's) very quick, very athletic. So I think that helps him be calm because he can get to his spots, get across the crease very quickly. So, that certainly helps him stay calm and be patient to read the play. And that's a big attribute that he has.''
Barring a trade, he is actually the only option for the Lightning that has NHL experience. Connor Ingram is in his first year of professional hockey and is best served playing as often as possible in Syracuse as opposed to sitting on the bench in Tampa. Nick Riopel has a lot of professional experience but nothing above the AHL level. It’s assumed Riopel is now with Syracuse.
A call-up doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to play. The Lightning enter a fairly consistent schedule over the next couple of weeks where they are playing almost every other day. Coach Cooper is not adverse to letting his young number one netminder play on a regular basis. That could be a bit troublesome for Domingue who has struggled with consistency when he isn’t playing on a regular basis. The best stretches of his career have come when filling in for an injured Mike Smith (something that happened on a frequent basis). If called up, he’ll have to show that he can be effective playing once every couple of weeks or so.
Cap-wise, the Lightning can afford to call him up without having to make any other moves. His cap hit is $1.05 million (almost the same as Budaj’s) and the Lightning have more than enough room to accommodate him. It does potentially hamstring later down the line if they need to make any other moves, but General Manager Steve Yzerman and Assistant General Manager Julien BriseBois have never let a little thing like a salary cap impact their moves.
The fewer games Domingue plays, the better for the Lightning. In all honesty, it’s a mystery as to which Domingue the Lightning will get. Digging into his past numbers won’t necessarily provide any clue to his future performance. The Coyotes and the Lightning are two wildly different teams when it comes to structure and talent. At the very least they are getting a netminder with NHL experience that has had occasional flashes of brilliance. Hopefully that’s enough.