A storm front is rolling through the league. It's the Tampa Bay Lightning not waiting for any dumb ol' deadline. With new ownership in place, it looks like they are prepared to spend what they need to get the job done in the '08 - '09 season. But are they getting a little too reckless this off season?
The Lightning, the most active Southeast Division team thus far, couldn't wait for the July 1st deadline to come around to sign free agents. They traded a couple of draft picks for the rights for Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone and as a result, both have signed.
Tampa is looking to win now, "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead" kind of attitude. Now that they have ownership that seems ready to spend some cash, a new head coach, Vinny Lecavalier signed for life and a few free agents under the belt, the Lightning expectations are high for next year.
But at a cost. Malone signed a seven year, $31.5 million contract. Some now are saying that is too much for a player of his stature. He will earn between $7 and $8 million in the first two years. Plus the Lightning hired Greg Malone, Ryan's father, as head pro scout (a move to assure Malone would sign in Tampa?). And the Lightning might not be done pulling big deals.
They traded a conditional pick for the rights to Brian Rolston from the Minnesota Wild. Rolston and Malone, to me, seem like the exact same player. Both gritty forwards with a scoring touch.
Also rumors are circling around trading Dan Boyle and the team may be shopping the defenseman around. Which is a bit funny since Boyle has a "no trade" clause. But Tampa is looking to win now. Obviously, they believe since they have pulled the number one draft spot that their time is now. It was time to change the team's makeup and try to buy a playoff spot.
Time will tell if the Lightning's latest moves will pay off for them. Even their ownership claims "nothing is guaranteed here, but we hope to have a chance to get another quality player in a Lightning uniform sooner rather than later." It sure makes the division a bit more interesting.