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Tampa Bay Lightning

Five keys for the Lightning in the offseason

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Published:   |   Updated: April 30, 2013 at 06:50 AM

Upgrading the defense
 
If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. It's the biggest area the team needs to improve. Though the additions of Sami Salo and Matt Carle were an upgrade this season, it turned out to be only a marginal upgrade. Ideally, the Lightning will seek a mobile defenseman who can help Tampa Bay get out of its own end on a consistent basis. In other words, they are still trying to replace Dan Boyle. Expect any acquisition to come via trade, not free agency.

Coaching changes
 
When Guy Boucher was fired on March 24 and replaced by Jon Cooper, the future of the remaining assistants came into question. Dan LaCroix and goaltender coach Frantz Jean were retained for the remainder of the season, Martin Raymond remained with the organization to help in Syracuse and Steve Thomas was officially named as an assistant coach. The immediate future, however, is unclear. General manager Steve Yzerman previously stated his desire to add an assistant with NHL experience, but said on Monday he would sit down with Cooper to evaluate any changes to the staff. The contracts for LaCroix, Jean, Raymond and video coach Nigel Kirwan are set to expire this summer

Compliance buyouts
 
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, each team can buy out the contracts of two players during the 2013 and/or 2014 offseason without them counting against the salary cap. With the cap dropping from $70.2 to $64.4 million next season, this is something every team in the league will contemplate, including the Lightning, as a way to clear cap space. Vinny Lecavalier is certain to come up as a potential target for Tampa Bay, but there is no sign the Lightning will utilize this option on Lecavalier or any player with big money left on his deal. In the case of Lecavalier, it would cost Tampa Bay $30 million over 14 years to save his $7.7 million salary cap hit while opening a gaping hole at center.

Clearing salary cap
 
If the Lightning are looking for ways to free up salary cap space, the trade route seems the most viable option. Ryan Malone's name will no doubt begin to surface, as his salary cap hit ($4.5 million) will be greater than his actual salary ($2.5 million each of the next two seasons). He's been the subject of trade rumors in the past and almost certainly will be once again this summer.

Mattias Ohlund For the past two seasons, defenseman Mattias Ohlund has tried to work his way back from knee surgery. But he is no closer to a return now than he was at the start of the 2011-12 season. Ohlund has three years and $6.75 million remaining on his seven-year contract. He has remained around the team, recently going on a road trip as a de facto assistant coach, but his immediate future is unclear. While retiring would seem to be a likely option, Ohlund is under no obligation to walk away from the remaining three years on his contract. Yzerman said on Monday there has been no resolution to the issue.

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