If John Tavares was Drafted by the Lightning…
This is the 3rd part of a series that documents the impact that John Tavares will have on an NHL team. Other teams that have been discussed have been the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. Please visit Fifty Mission Cap Sports Blog to see what will happen in JT is drafted by these teams.
The Tampa Bay Lightning off-season was very active and ended with an optimistic view towards the 2008-2009 season. They were awarded the 1st overall pick in the draft which they used to acquire Steven Stamkos; they overpaid Ryan Malone; signed Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts, traded Dan Boyle; and hired Barry Melrose as head coach. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, TSN, everybody penned the Lightning into the playoffs in their preseason previews.
Nothing went right for the Lightning.
The 2008-2009 NHL season is complete, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are no better than they were last season. They are no longer the worst team in the league, but finished with less points than last year’s team. They finished last season tied for the worst team with 71 points. They finished 2nd last with 66 points this season. The team’s turnover rate was enormous. Over the course of the season, 55 players suited up for the Lightning. Only 20 players laced up the skates for their opening games in Prague. This does not even include the firing of Melrose.
This leaves them with the 2nd best chance (18.8%) to regain the 1st overall pick in June’s amateur NHL draft. With a little bit of luck, the Lightning will be asking the greater Tampa Bay area: “Seen Tavares?”
If the Lightning can somehow grab the 1st overall pick, and use it to draft John Tavares, it still may not make them a playoff contender. Tavares, combined with Stamkos, would give the Lightning the best young combo in the league. They would be right up there with Crosby & Malkin and Toews & Kane. Stamkos & Tavares would make for a very formidable duo for years. After a year of seasoning, the two would likely dominate the league, just as Crosby & Malkin have been doing since their second years into the league.
If Tavares is able to produce in his first season with the Lightning, it will make Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier expendible. Although I believe that Lecavalier should never be traded, owners may fear the economic impact of having to pay one player $10 million every year for the next 10 years. I believe St. Louis should have been traded at this year’s trade deadline, for perhaps a Jordan Staal type player. St. Louis is older and is nearing the end of his contract and should be traded for young, top notch talent that can evolve and compliment the duo of Stamkos & Tavares.
An 18.8% chance of landing Tavares is not very good odds, compared to 25%, which is what the Islanders have. However, if the Lightning grab the consolation prize, what a consolation it will be. Swedish defenseman, Victor Hedman is slated as the consensus #2 player to be drafted, and the Lightning are in need to some good young defense. This elite defenseman would appropriately compliment the offensive firepower that the Lightning already possess. Hedman is probably a better fit for the Lightning because they are lacking in defensive prospects, even with the acquisition of Ty Wishart. If the Lightning see a Chris Pronger-like career in Hedman, they could use a potential #1 pick on Hedman.
But how can you pass up John Tavares? I mean, “Seen Hedman” just doesn’t have the same ring.