THE LIGHTNING INSIDER
Lightning GM Jay Feaster and head coach John Tortorella started their final cuts yesterday by reassigning goaltender Karri Ramo and returning forward Justin Keller to Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Today they’ve continued the process by placing defenseman Bryce Lampman, and forwards Kyle Wanvig and Mathieu Darche on waivers. Should the three clear after the 48-hour waiver period, they will be assigned to Norfolk as well, leaving Tampa Bay with 21 healthy skaters. Defenseman Dan Boyle will start the season on Injured Reserve, and it’s likely that center Ryan Craig will do the same.
What do these moves mean? Well, for starters, it means you can assume Matt Smaby, Mike Lundin and Craig MacDonald will be on the Lightning roster when they open the regular season against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. If I were a betting man, I’d say it also means that Doug Janik, who arrived in camp in the best shape of his life, will be kept around as an insurance policy since both Smaby and Lundin are true rookies.
Janik’s experience will come in handy as Lundin and Smaby adjust to NHL-caliber competition, and while the team’s budget restraints might suggest that waiving Janik and sending him to Norfolk could be the most prudent move, Feaster and Tortorella are likely worried he’d be lost on waivers. The concern over losing the team’s most experienced insurance policy on defense certainly trumps short-term budget concerns.
With Ramo’s assignment to Norfolk, the Lightning have decided that Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis are better prepared to backstop the Lightning in 2007-08. Ramo, who is scheduled to be in net Sunday when Norfolk faces Philadelphia, will benefit from the playing time as he continues to develop as the team’s stopper of the future.
The guess here is that Tortorella will not name a No. 1 goaltender in Tampa Bay, and Holmqvist and Denis will split time based on Tortorella’s gut instincts. After strong preseason performances, Feaster and Tortorella have full confidence in both to get the job done. Holmqvist should only improve on the numbers he posted last year in his first full NHL campaign, and Denis has looked sharpest among the three goaltenders in camp as he tries to rebound from a sub-par 2006-07.