Going into last night’s opening round of the NHL Draft, there were a number of rumors and events circling the Tampa Bay Lightning. A few players were re-signed to new contracts, while it was uncertain if Ben Bishop would be returning to the Lightning roster. Not to mention, Steven Stamkos is now officially able to listen to offers from other teams leading into next Thursday’s free agent frenzy. There was also a potentially costly mishap involving Tampa’s draft strategy. Needless to say it was a very eventful Friday before general manager Steve Yzerman took the stage to make their first round selection.
In addition to a record number of American-born players being chosen in the opening round (12), the first night of the draft saw the Lightning select Brett Howden with the 27th pick. Bowden is a 6’2″ center that has a very good two-way game, something that head coach Jon Cooper covets in his players. While Howden is a prospect to watch in the future for the Lightning, there a number of things that happened and didn’t happen to the Bolts during the opening round of the draft.
Ben Bishop Hasn’t Been Traded….Yet
Bishop remained a member of the Lightning when it appeared as though he would be on the move. It had been rumored that the Calgary Flames offered two first-round picks, including their 6th overall pick (which turned into Matthew Tkachuk) and Sam Bennett. Instead, Calgary dealt a pair of picks to St. Louis for Brian Elliott. In an interview after their selection general manager Steve Yzerman stated that they know a goalie will have to be on the move with the expansion draft on the way. I could see Bishop going to the Winnipeg Jets, who are frustrated with their goaltending combo, or maybe the St. Louis Blues. It remains to be seen if the Blues have faith in Jake Allen or if they will opt for a player like Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury. This would be a homecoming for Bishop, as he would be returning to his hometown team and the team that originally drafted him.
Witkowski, Brown, & Paquette Sign New Deals
Three players were re-signed yesterday and will continue their tenure with the Lightning. Defenseman Luke Witkowski kicked things off with a one-year, two-way contract, while forwards J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette were both given two-year, one-way contracts. Every one is waiting to see what happens with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, but this is a good start towards keeping depth on this team.
Red Wings Making a Push For Steven Stamkos
Since Pavel Datsyuk decided to go back to Russia and leave the Red Wings holding on to his $7.5 million dollar salary cap hit, it didn’t seem like Detroit could be much of a player for Steven Stamkos. That is until the Arizona Coyotes liked what they saw in defenseman Jakob Chychrun, and saw this as an opportunity to get to the salary cap floor without spending money on players that could be on the ice and actually help you win games. Arizona made a deal with Detroit to move up in the first round to choose Chychrun, while also acquiring Datsyuk’s cap hit. The biggest part of the move is that it now gives the Red Wings room to make a run at Stamkos come July 1st. Speaking of Stamkos, any team is now able to start talking contracts and money with the center. It is obvious that a multitude of teams are kicking the tires but Detroit, Toronto, and Buffalo look to be the heavy hitters here. It has been rumored that Buffalo is willing to back a Brinks truck into Stamkos’ driveway with a long-term $12 million dollar per year contract, and Toronto is certainly hoping to pull on this heartstrings and bring the superstar back to his hometown team. Reading Yzerman’s body language during his interview, it did not seem very promising that Stamkos would be wearing a Lightning jersey next season.
Draft Strategy Ends Up In The Open
Some time Friday morning, someone who was on Yzerman’s staff dropped a piece of paper containing the Lightning’s apparent draft strategy. The paper was picked up and posted on social media. The Lightning reached out and asked that the picture be taken down, leading to the possibility of this being a legitimate document that Yzerman didn’t want the world to see. The document contained possible trades to move up and down while listing their top prospects. Not a good look for Tampa Bay going into the draft, but these things happen from time to time.
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