Yesterday, The Hockey News released the results of a fan survey about fans’ confidence in their teams’ front office staff. After what has happened over the past 9 months, between the Jonathan Drouin ups and downs and re-signing franchise cornerstones Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, Lightning fans’ confidence is running high. General Manager Steve Yzerman and the Lightning finished 1st overall in the survey.
Additionally, the team finished 1st overall in four different categories: roster building, cap management, drafting and developing, and team vision. The team was 2nd in free agency and 6th in trading.
Roster Building isn’t hard to see with how well Yzerman has put together this team and kept the core together while providing a high level of on-ice performance. Drafting and developing is also an obvious strong point for the team when you consider that of the 33 players that dressed for a game last season, 15 were drafted by the team and 2 more were undrafted NCAA free agents. Team Vision is also clear as Yzerman has had a clear plan for building the organization since arriving in 2010 and has stuck to it.
A 2nd place finish in free agency is certainly understandable as the team has landed quality players in Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman. While the team gets some flak for signing Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula, they have been solid contributors to the team, even if they are currently overpaid for their most recent performances. The team has also for the most part avoided chasing big free agents and so has rarely gotten burned in the market, with the exception of Matt Carle.
The 6th place finish in trades is also understandable. The trades that the team has made over the past couple of seasons have been fairly low impact with Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn being the most significant. The other recent trades have been more involving draft picks that aren’t impacting the team yet. But how can we forget the Martin St. Louis and Ryan Callahan trade or the trade that brought Ben Bishop to the team? Of course the other end of that spectrum is the Anders Lindback trade. So I guess it all balances it out with the good outweighing the few bad trades.
The finish that is the most surprising though is perhaps being 1st in cap management. While Yzerman pulled a rabbit out of his hat by getting Stamkos and Hedman to accept team friendly deals, he’s still negotiating a tough situation with the still pending restricted free agents. While Matt Carle’s contract has been dealt with via a buy out, there is still a crunch going on that is holding up the contracts for Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Vasilevskiy has already re-signed to a three-year deal for $3.5 million per year that starts with the 2017-18 season. Hedman’s raise will kick in that season. And Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Andrej Sustr, and Slater Koekkoek will all be restricted free agents next summer as well. Only Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle will be unrestricted free agents.
The next 12 months will really show us if our trust in Yzerman is justified and how he’ll navigate the treacherous salary cap seas that are to come. Not to mention the expansion draft. If THN does the survey again next summer around this time, it will be interesting to see what the fans think then.