Props to Tampa Tribune Erik Erlendsson for making it clear what the Lightning are and aren’t doing with its back-up goalie situation: The team prefers to have someone other than Anders Lindback.
Erlendsson’s report makes it clear that the Lightning are going to market for a back-up goalie though Lindback could find his way back:
The Lightning will not be issuing a qualifying offer to goaltender Anders Lindback, allowing the 26-year-old to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
In order to retain Lindback’s rights as a restricted free agent, the Lightning would have had to issue an offer equal to the $2.2 million salary he played for last season.
Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times had a similar piece on Friday, and maybe he had the same information or perhaps something changed since he talked to general manager Steve Yzerman:
Yzerman said they’re still talking with goalie Anders Lindback as they’re looking for a backup goalie for Ben Bishop. “He’s still in the mix,” Yzerman said. “They understand what I’m trying to do at this point and he’s still a guy we’re considering signing for next year.”
It seemed to be heading this direction with Lindback earlier this month when Syracuse Crunch beat reporter Lindsay Kramer of The Post-Standard covered what Crunch players won’t be tendered an offer and he tweeted that assistant GM Julien BriseBois said he’d have to ask Yzerman:
For TB readers, I checked back with BriseBois re: Aulie and Lindback. He said those are Yzerman questions and wouldn’t tell me. Sorry
— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) June 11, 2014
When they won’t tell you, then it’s not a yes.
Lindback could very well be back as both Tampa media reports say, but there is a wide availability of veteran back-ups in the UFA crop this summer. Teams like the Lightning and Washington Capitals are probably seeing this as their chance to lure Martin Brodeur to be their Hall of Fame back-up and push and teach promising young starters Ben Bishop and Braden Holtby. The Caps definitely have an opening after saying goodbye to Jaroslav Halak and Michal Neuvirth.
If you want a full rundown and analysis of every free agent goalie available this summer, head over to JapersRink, which also includes goalies who could be up for a trade having a year left on their deal.
For the Bolts, maybe Yzerman saw this as the end of a competition between Lindback and Bishop and declared a winner. It’s clear they’re seeking an upgrade after seeing what happened in the playoffs.
Coach Jon Cooper told Smith in Sunday’s Times that after re-watching the series against the Canadiens, the games weren’t even close:
“Our goaltending wasn’t good enough. Our defensemen weren’t good enough, and our forwards weren’t good enough,” Cooper said. “And ultimately, maybe our coaching wasn’t good enough.”
Lindback showed a remarkable improvement from where he played during most of the regular season and took his play to the next level during the final stretch of the season and into the start of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Lightning needed him to play at the level he was showing in the playoffs beforehand and play another level above that if they were going to win. Part of that is on Lindback, though most of it was on the team for giving up some horrendous chances.
Going back to the Capitals, I’d be curious to see if coach Barry Trotz would be open to having Lindback on the Caps. He doesn’t fit the profile of what the Caps are looking for—a veteran back-up (read: older)—but sometimes familiarity is best. Lindback has improved since Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn last had him, mainly from added playing time. However, the same argument could be made for the Caps bringing back Tomas Vokoun for reunion with Trotz.
What’s clear is that the goaltending situation in Tampa is in what I call a Phase III of a rebuild. Phase I was draft prospects while replacing veteran goaltenders with unproven ones, Phase II was to have competition between your new goaltenders to find a winner and Phase III is dispose of the weaker asset and acquire a veteran back-up. The young, up-and-coming goalie tandem rarely works and teams figure out that at some point, you need a veteran presence.
It’s unfortunate that Yzerman couldn’t flip Lindback’s rights to another team for at least a draft pick, but Lindback’s value isn’t even that high. Honestly, I rather have this problem instead of having two very good young goaltenders and trading the wrong one.