Mike Smith, G
Sean Bergenheim, LW
Simon Gagne, LW
Randy Jones, D
Matt Smaby, D
Chris Durno, LW
Tom Pyatt, C
Ryan Shannon, C
Michel Ouellet, LW
Alexandre Picard, LW
Trevor Smith, LW
James Wyman, RW
Bruno Gervais, D
Matt Gilroy, D
Richard Petiot, D
Mathieu Garon, G
Steve Stamkos, C: The Lightning improved their team’s fortune by keeping what was theirs to keep. If anyone needs any further evidence that NHL GM’s have a secret pact about signing other team’s restricted free agents one need only remember St. Louis GM John Ferguson’s silly offer to then restricted free agent Steve Bernier on the heels of Vancouver GM Mike Gillis’ offer to sign David Backes, to see the point. Stamkos was always going to be a Lightning, and all the other GM’s let it be. That deal now finalized, the Lightning star looks a little brighter into 2011-2012. He’s still young, so expect him to play full-tilt guns a-blazin’ hockey, and lead the league in scoring. This is your no-brainer number one pick, if you have it. Over 50 goals, and over 100 points in 2012.
Martin St. Louis, RW: Marty is well on his way to becoming a hall-of-famer as he enters the twilight of his career. But by twilight, I do not mean to suggest that the rugged winger is slowing down. Yes, I said rugged. He takes as many big and dirty hits as anyone in the league, but he gets back up and keeps ticking. Marty has played 654 out of the last 656 games in the last 8 years of NHL hockey making him a solid option as a number one pick. His chemistry with Stamkos is undeniable and his drive to compete for the Stanley Cup is as strong as ever. Looks like Marty could be in twilight for quite some time.
Dwayne Roloson, G: Dwayne is on a one-year contract as he probably will be for the remainder of his career. He’s still worth a pick of course, especially since he might have his best season statistically of his entire NHL career. With the addition of Garon, expect 65 starts out of the veteran Roloson, at least 35 wins and solid averages all-around. A solid pick.
Steve Downie, RW: This is a highly capable winger who, if he can keep his antics to a minimum and focus on the game, could resemble the winger who nearly had a point a game in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Even if he doesn’t, why not gamble on a player who is guaranteed to get you 45 points, and over 100 minutes in penalties. If he plays a full season, his PIM’s will be close to 200, and he could develop into a 60 point player. Not a lot of penalty/point producers left in the new NHL
Teddy Purcell, RW: Another player who is benefiting from the added depth a fully developed Stamkos and a healthy Lecavalier provides. He could easily top out 65 points this season with Tampa Bay. A nice option for backup PP points.
Vincent Lecavalier, C: A few bad seasons after a Matt Cooke cheap shot and an injury plagued season last year might be enough to scare away buyers, but I think Lecavalier is a solid bet to bounce back into the 80 points zone. He has something to prove this year, and might want to make a little noise in Tampa. With all the attention the young Stamkos is getting, is Vinny’s pride a little hurt?
Victor Hedman, D: Not that he’s going to fail to develop one day, but Hedman still has a lot to learn about the NHL game. He spent a lot of time chasing last year and only scored 3 goals. He’ll need another year of seasoning before becoming anything resembling the elite defenseman he’s projected to be. The player he’s often compared to, Chris Pronger, took 6 seasons before he hit 60 points, a total he only achieved once. Don’t overrate Hedman.
Ryan Malone, RW/LW: Malone is never going to score more than 50 points in the NHL, but he’s a player who belongs on any NHL team. Versatile, defensively conscious, and exuding leadership, but he’s not offensively gifted. Has many cold streaks.
Hattrick Payne says: The outlook for the Tampa Bay Lightning going into the 2011 season is pretty good. Lots of scoring depth up front, plenty of defensively minded forwards on the third and fourth lines, and the defensive corps just got deeper with the inking of Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and depth defenders Bruno Gervais and Matt Gilroy. Dwayne Roloson is a nice fit in goal for Tampa and should bring their 23rd overall goals against down to a respectable top-10 level. Another year for Hedman under the tutelage of Mattias Ohlund, the leadership of Lecavalier, St. Louis, Brewer, Ohlund and even at the top with GM Steve Yzerman in command means this team will easily challenge for Presidents Trophy and Stanley Cup contention. Tampa will be a force to be reckoned with in the east for the next few years. Yzerman’s apprenticeship under Kenny Holland in his Detroit days will pay off big time in Tampa, which has finally gotten the stability it always craved.
Claude Lebut says: Tampa should easily be in the top 4 this season. They can beat Boston now with what they have because they seem like the only team who has Tim Thomas’ number. The question for me is if Roloson can hold up in the playoffs. I’m still not so sure he’s the guy. For the regular season there’s no reason to believe this team isn’t as good as anyone in the league. They have a lot of bite up front and are a lot of fun to watch. They’ll sell out arenas everywhere they go and Stamkos will sell a lot of NHL video games. Tampa had two three-game losing streaks and two four-game losing streaks last year. Truly great teams avoid those kind of slumps. If Tampa can keep losing in bunches to a minimum they could get to 50 wins this coming season, and their best season in franchise history.