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On Yzerman, the Lightning plan and new scout Callahan

Jul 2, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

Steve Yzerman AP

Gotta love it when a plan comes together.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big free agent splash by bringing aboard two key members to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup run — center Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman.

And, per the Tampa Tribune, a prominent ex-Blueshirt played a big role bringing them aboard:

[Lightning GM Steve] Yzerman said he solicited information on Stralman and Boyle with Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who was captain of the Rangers and played with both players before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in March, .

“We got (Callahan’s) thoughts on them, make sure that what we see of them as players is correct and get the character reference and if they will fit into our locker room,’’ Yzerman said. “So, he was a wealth of information for us.’’

No huge surprise. The Callahan-Boyle-Stralman trio spent parts of three years together in New York — for Boyle and Callahan, it was five — and as the free agent market began to unfold, it was clear the Lightning were freeing up money for UFA targets (which, hindsight being 20/20, were guys Callahan provided valuable intel on.)

On Sunday, Yzerman made a flurry of moves designed to land said targets, first shipping Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipping Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to Phoenix for a draft pick. Shortly thereafter, Yzerman sent gritty forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks — and when the dust settled, the Lightning GM suddenly had $9 million in cap space.

The moves were in lockstep with the plan Tampa Bay executed throughout the offseason: clear cap space and roster room.

Previous transactions also freed up money (like the compliance buyout for Ryan Malone) so the club could spend dollars to improve areas of need — notably on defense, where, in addition to Stralman, ex-Canuck Jason Garrison was brought aboard.

The plan also called for Yzerman to clear roster room so his young forward prospects could make the leap to the NHL. It worked last year with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat — who put forth Calder-worthy seasons — and the Bolts are hopeful it’ll work again now with the likes of Jonathan Drouin (3rd overall, ’13) and Brett Connolly (6th overall, ’10).

Overall, Yzerman finished his work — “I don’t see us doing a whole lot [more],” he said yesterday — sounding pretty happy with how it all came together.

“We like the moves that we’ve made,” Yzerman said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.

“And the end of the day on July 1, we feel OK.”

  1. ctcork - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Exciting time to be a Lightning fan. Can it be October now?

    • pfhockey - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      I can’t wait to see Connolly play in the top 6. I also can’t wait to see our new third jersey.

      • lowenni - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        Can either of you Lightning fans tell me what you think of Connolly? I know he’s taken a little bit longer to develop and usually by now people would be calling him a bust but Yzerman and you guys seem pretty optimistic about him? Is he looking like a top-6 forward or one of those AHL-NHL inbetweeners? Thanks

      • ntvd7 - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        He’s a good prospect but I don’t see a top six for him

        Not after what their rookies did last year….

      • lightning79 - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        I expect him to have 20 goals if he’s healthy. The production he’s had in the AHL has been very good, I expect him to transition way better this year. His first NHL season it really screwed his development, but they weren’t going to send him back to Prince Georges (it was a mess there).

        He’s almost a PPG player in the AHL, If we can get 40-50 pts from him this year, it should be decent production. Steve Yzerman has said last year that he would rather play Connolly in top 6 last year, I don’t think he’s changed his decision, but at the same time I’m not saying he’ll start in top 6. I think he’ll start in top 9 and slowly move up in the lineup!

      • jb8588 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        I personally value Connolly more than other Bolts fans. Though I don’t feel he’ll be a superstar by any stretch, I really feel that if gets to play top six on a regular basis that he can peak out as a regular 30 goal scorer. He’s taking some time to develop, but his overall game has come a long way. He doesn’t have skills that will really wow you but his time in the AHL has done him a lot of good. I would definitely love at some point to see him on a line with Stammer and Drouin and see what they can do. With the likes of Malone and Purcell gone now, it looks like Yzerman has paved the way for Brett to earn his spot in the top six.

  2. lowenni - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    I know Callahan’s contract was a little pricey, but I think he’s gonna be really great for them, and not from a points perspective. Having both Brian Boyle and him in the locker room is a huge addition to the team, two fantastic leaders who bring a lot of intangibles that maybe the Bolts were lacking (evidenced in the playoffs). Stralman also is a solid addition to their defense and could look real good next to Victor Hedman. Having big guys like Boyle to play next to littler guys like Drouin, Johnson, and Kucherov helps as well. Good for the Lightning, I like em a lot, don’t know why. Toss up for me between Yzerman and Jim Nill as GM of the year next year.

    • lordfletcher - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Not hating on either candidate but you have to put GM Chuck Fletcher in this mix. He has practically pieced that entire team together and has done so in a very friendly cap hit. Despite what most people think about the Parise / Suter contracts, they were clearly, easily worth it… To add Nino, Pominville and now Vanek for almost nothing (one first round pick and meh prospects) is very impressive. Fletcher has done all of this in 4 years, not just this short season but everything has been methodical and paint by numbers. He has been two steps a head of each deal he has made

      GM of the year award isn’t won on July 1st tho…. Time will tell but I do think those are your top 3-5 GM’s going into the year.

      • lowenni - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        I agree that Fletcher (who you may have some bias to judging by your username) has had a very impressive few years as GM of the Wild. That being said, so far THIS year he’s only acquired Vanek and we will see how that turns out. What he has done in the past doesn’t matter for this years award, although I agree that he’s had to build the team from some outside pieces and has been successful in bringing those pieces in. If Vanek scores 40 goals again Fletcher will be in the conversation, but if he floats around the whole season…well. I didn’t like the Vanek signing, I don’t like his attitude or commitment.

      • guitarhunterdude - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:26 PM

        Fletcher’s done nothing this year except bring in Vanek. He got a good term & price for the top goalscorer on the market, sure, but it pales in comparison to the wizardry that Yzerman and Nill have been pulling off.

      • dirtydave6986 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Fletcher didn’t bring in Vanek…Vanek’s wife who lives in Minnesota made him do it…women.

      • lordfletcher - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        Not trying to get in a pissing match here guys … and I am not biased, trying to keep it real as much as possible :)

        I did say, Fletcher didn’t do much so far this year (and we are talking about 48 hours or so) except bring in Vanek at a very team friendly deal. Again, I was trying to say his work in previous years led up to this signing and others. You are fooling yourself if any GM wins an award based upon one years worth of work, especially the first day of UFA’s. Vanek would have never signed with the Wild if they were unable to secure Parise, Suter, Pominville and having their draft picks work out as well as they had. That’s all I am trying to say. Based on everyones logic, if he were to have signed Niskanen for 7 years and $40 million, he would be a God. Fletcher has done just done a great job with managing the teams cap

        As for Yzerman, I think he made some quality signings yesterday and leading up to this, but folks should cool the jets a tad. Boyle / meh. Stralman, quality RHD. Yzerman did potentially put this team too close to the cap for the next 3 / 4 years tho, not much wiggle room pending trading partners and up coming contracts $$. No hating, just pointing out the obvious but the team looks great for years to come

        Nill did very well with Spezza and Hemsky we’ll know in a year or so. Will he come back to 60+ point seasons or not? Either way, I like the signing.

        again, I think both Yzerman and Nill have done great but there are others knocking at their doors for quality GM’s… Don’t forget both FL and TX have no state income taxes, plays a big part as well :)

  3. jaybaileys - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    Stevie Y. building himself quite the little contender in Tampa good for you guys!

  4. endusersolutions2013 - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    So it looks like they can contend again. Big question mark is goalie. Ben B was excellent last year, and if he’s injured, they’re counting on Nabokov?

    • sgs32 - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Isn’t that true for most teams in the league, if your no.1 goalie is injured your in a heap of trouble normally

  5. jb8588 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    I will admit, when Yzerman came on board I wasn’t happy with a few moves he did (trading Conacher, signing Lindback, etc.) but as time as gone I am pretty impressed with what he has done. I was hoping to god that he didn’t go out and overpay bigtime for Niskanen (who IMO is really overrated), and considering that he got Stralman for about half of what Niskanen got…I was thrilled given they were the two big D-man on the market that teams wanted. Also love how he got rid of some dead weight on the roster who honestly weren’t contributing enough (Purcell, Crombeen, Malone, Lindback in particular). Wishing he would of shipped out Brewer as well, but maybe he’ll play better next season and start playing the body more like he should for somebody his size!

  6. kfraser91 - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    If only Ken Holland would have retired with Lidstrom…then Stevie Y would be wing’d wheelin and dealin in Detroit

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