If the Tampa Bay Lightning had their druthers running back the same exact line-up that they used to win the Stanley Cup this season. In the Salary Cap Era that’s an impossible feat to accomplish. Despite their woes, they were able to keep most of the core together and only lost five players that played for them last season.
Three players elected free agency while the other two were sent off late in the off-season in order for Tampa Bay to become cap compliant. The Lightning have filled the holes for the most part, although their depth will be tested in the next couple of weeks. We know how the Lightning are doing so let’s take a moment to check in to see how they’re doing.
6 Games Played, 0 Goals, 1 Assist 24:16, Ice Time
44.55% CF, 45.51% xGF
Signing Shattenkirk to a three-year deal was a nice move for an Anaheim team that needed some experience on the blueline. Now, with Josh Manson out for the next six weeks or so, it’s looking like an even better signing.
While the offense hasn’t been there, something that applies to the entire Ducks team, Shattenkirk has been logging a tremendous amount of ice time. His 24:16 per game leads the team and he’s been seeing almost a minute more a game on the power play than he did with the Lightning. After being comfortably situated on the third pairing with Tampa Bay he’s back on the top pairing with Hampus Lindholm.
One of the more noticeable stats is that Shattenkirk isn’t shooting the puck with the frequency he has in the past. Through six games he’s averaging 2.6 shots per 60 minutes, almost 3 full shots below what he averaged with the Lightning.
2 Games Played, 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 18:03 Ice Time
60% CF, 69.6% xGF
After a couple of successful seasons with the Syracuse Crunch Verhaeghe finally made his NHL debut last season with the Lightning at the age of 24. He appeared in 52 games and provided some decent offense for the bottom two lines. After appearing in 8 games during their Stanley Cup run he signed with the Florida Panthers for $2 million over two years, a nice little bump over what he was making with the Lightning.
Another bonus to moving south was increased playing time. The Panthers aren’t as deep at the forward position as the Lightning are so Verhaeghe entered the season with a chance to play quite a bit. Over the first (and only) two games Florida has played, the quick-footed winger has played more than anyone expected, averaging 18 minutes a game (more than double what he played for the Bolts).
While all consideration to the extremely small sample size, it seems that Verhaeghe has found some chemistry with his linemates, Anthony DuClair and Aleksander Barkov. The trio is rolling with a 59.52 CF% and 77.72 xGF%. Will they sustain that? Of course not, but it looks like the Panthers have found a line that uses its speed to create offense.
5 Games Played, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 9:57 Ice Time
25.81% CF, 37.42% xGF
The only player on this list that was developed through the Lightning system, the 2012 fourth-round pick was traded to Ottawa as part of a salary cutting move by the Lightning. He is a veteran presence on a young Senators team that may not be very good right now, but are fun to watch.
It’s been a struggle for Paquette on the ice as well as you can see by his possession numbers. He also missed Monday night’s game with a lower-body injury he sustained on Saturday. Prior to the injury Paquette was doing Paquette things. That means skating around and hitting anyone wearing a different uniform. With 14 hits in just under 36 minutes of play he’s averaging 23.45 hits per 60 minutes of play. During his tenure with the Bolts he averaged about 14 per 60.
The Senators aren’t relying on Paquette to produce offense, but they also don’t want him to be a possession black hole. Even if coach DJ Smith wants his team to play physically, running Paquette out there every night when there are prospects needing ice time will be hard to justify.
4 Games Played, 0 Goals, 1 Assist, 17:13 Ice Time
30.23% CF, 40.67% xGF
The other part of the salary dump by the Lightning, Coburn fared well as the seventh defenseman for the Lightning last season, but has struggled in a regular role so far this season. His highlight might have been the opening game of the season where he played 10 minutes of 5v5, picked up an assist and posted positive possession numbers.
Since then, despite his ice time going up, his peripheral numbers have cratered. In 36 minutes of 5v5 play he’s been on the ice for 52 shots against while seeing only 14 shots for. Those are numbers you usually see when killing penalties (something that Coburn was on the ice for quite a bit during those games).
He was scratched in their game against Winnipeg on Saturday, replaced by Christian Wolanin. Chances are he’s going to be in and out of the line-up moving forward as the Senators try and figure out how good their younger players might be. If he’s able to improve his play down the stretch, the Senators may be able to deal him to a contender looking for experienced defensive depth.
7 Games Played, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 13:25 Ice Time
51.41% CF, 43.90% xGF
One of General Manager Julien BrisBois better moves last spring was signing Bogosian to a cheap deal after the Buffalo Sabres bought him out. Brought in for depth, the veteran blueliner played a lot more than anyone expected and held his own. He turned that into a one-year, $1 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With the Leafs he’s been, well, ok. The possession numbers are fine, but they are also the second lowest among regular defensemen on the team. He’s pretty much doing what you might expect out of a third-pairing defender, playing physical and blocking shots.
It’s unlikely he’s going to jump up on the top pairing anytime soon, but has found a nice role with Leafs and does provide them some value. At $1 million it wouldn’t have been a hardship if he had returned to the Lightning, but he doesn’t bring much of a different skill set than Luke Schenn and would have blocked playing time for Cal Foote.
With the exception of Kevin Shattenkirk, who would look really nice on the right side of the defense with Erik Cernak sidelined, these players were role players that gave the Lightning a little depth in their line-up. Even in a magical, cap-less world they would have been fighting for ice time if they had stayed in the organization. With their new teams all five have a chance to play more, Shattenkirk and Verhaeghe seem to be taking advantage of it while Paquette and Coburn are still searching for their footing in Ottawa. Bogosian has been fine.
All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick