Since Steve Yzerman took over as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, there has only been one short stretch of time that the roster has not had a player with a Stanley Cup ring to their name. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but Yzerman seems to really like to have a player with a Cup on their resume in the locker room. When he first arrived with the team, he already had a few on the roster. As the years have gone on, it seems that it’s something he has kept going.
- 2010-11 - Pavel Kubina (1), Vincent Lecavalier (1), Martin St. Louis (1)
- 2011-12 - Ryan Shannon (1), Pavel Kubina** (1), Vincent Lecavalier (1), Martin St. Louis (1), Mike Commodore* (1)
- 2012-13 - Vincent Lecavalier (1), Martin St. Louis (1)
- 2013-14 - Martin St. Louis** (1), Valterri Filppula (1)
- 2014-15 - Valtteri Filppula (1)
- 2015-16 - Valtteri Filppula (1)
- 2016-17 - Valtteri Filppula** (1)
- 2017-18 - Chris Kunitz (4)
* - Acquired mid-season
** - Traded away mid-season
The only time during the Yzerman Era that there has not been a Stanley Cup ring bearer on the roster was from 3/1/2017 when Filppula was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers until 7/1/2017 when Chris Kunitz was signed as a free agent. On July 1st, when Kunitz becomes an unrestricted free agent once again, the Lightning will once more be with out a ring on the roster.
So it begs the question of who is out there that could provide that presence in the locker room. Lecavalier and St. Louis were inherited when Yzerman was hired, but every other player was acquired by Yzerman. As you go through the list of the others. they fit into one of three categories; younger player in his prime, older player on a short-term deal, and Mike Commodore.
A younger player in his prime seems less likely, unless Yzerman goes on to the trade market to acquire such a player. The Mike Commodore category is obviously not possible right now since it requires a trade for the player during the season. So that leaves us most likely looking at an older player on a short-term deal.
This one seems like the most obvious. He’s still in good shape and put up 29 points. He wasn’t injured during the season. He also seemed to really enjoy living in Tampa. Another one-year deal for Kunitz isn’t out of the question. Familiarity is something hockey people appreciate and that would give Kunitz a leg-up on making another run at his fifth ring.
Ok, you’re probably laughing right now, but hear me out on this one. He’s lost a couple steps, but he’s still a decent enough defensive player. He’s still good at winning faceoffs. He’s the kind of guy that could fit in well on the fourth line playing either center or left wing with Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan (when he returns from injury). He’d also likely be available on a short-term, cheap deal similar to what Kunitz got last year.
Can Cullen keep playing? He’s 41 and turns 42 in November. He also has his name on the Stanley Cup three times. He’s continued to be effective late in his career scoring 22 points in 79 games for the Minnesota Wild this year after leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins where he picked up his 2nd and 3rd rings. He’s also another guy that can win faceoffs in a fourth line role.
Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson
Two bottom six players from the newly minted Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals. All three are unrestricted free agents and free to sign anywhere. Jay Beagle would be my first pick of the two since he’s really good in the faceoff dot. He is a career 56.4% and had a 58.5% mark this year after the changes to faceoffs were made.
[Note: The original article also mentioned Devante Smith-Pelly here. He is a restricted free agent.]
Maybe No One
It’s not a certainty that Steve Yzerman will actually bring a ring into the locker room. It hasn’t actually worked so far in getting the Lightning over the hump to win a Stanley Cup. But, his history does show a strong track run of doing so. I think as a player that has multiple rings and having been with the Detroit Red Wings for so long around other players that had climbed to the top of the mountain, he appreciates the perspective that brings in the locker room.
Of course, if the Lightning can get their only Stanley Cup rings next season, then it will become a lot easier for him to have those rings in the room every season.