Lukowich -- UFA -- and the sudden defensive question

I was surprised as everyone else when I learned Brad Lukowich is a Unrestricted Free Agent (more than half way down on the page). The Lightning declined to make a qualifying offer for his services - hoping to bring him back at a lower sum instead.

But let's also tack on the fact Nolan Pratt will have the option of walking this week as he has the service time to become a UFA if he so elects (as does Andre Roy). With Lukowich up for grabs and Pratt having the option to test the open market, the Lightning defense suddenly takes quite a hit.

There are only 3 defensiveman under contract. Negotiations are ongoing with Dan Boyle's agent but there is still quite a hole.

Also compound the fact Jassen Cullimore left for Chicago before the Lockout and you already have a defense that is suddenly lacking veteran talent.

The Lightning do have young options in players like Mike Egener, Andreas Holmqvist, Gerard Dicaire and Andy Rogers -- but the team would certainly prefer to have these players as depth and brought along slowly - not suddenly forced to step in and fill the shoes vacated by men who won the Stanley Cup.

Also with the goaltending question -- Is Nik gone? Is Grahame the man now? -- you want to make sure to have a strong defense in front of the net to give whomever the netminder is and easier job.

18 million dollars in cap room -- with Vinny, Marty, Dan and possibly Nik to sign... That Cap is suddenly starting to feel tighter.