In addition to having a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy, following the Ryan Callahan trade, the Tampa Bay Lightning has three other goaltenders at their disposal.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has certainly been busy this off-season. Between re-signing their Free Agents, making deals, and figuring out how to do this all under cap, Lightning Vice President and General Manager Julien BriseBois has certainly had his hands full.
Throughout the chaos that is the off-season, the Lightning seemed to be collecting a rather odd number of players for one specific position. After the Ryan Callahan trade, which was announced earlier this morning, the Tampa Bay Lightning now has not one, not two, not even three, but four goaltenders on their roster.
Leading the way for the Tampa Bay Lightning is Vezina Trophy-winner Andrei Vasilevskiy. Given the insane deal Vasy signed yesterday afternoon, he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Then, the Lightning has goaltender Louis Domingue. Domingue came up huge between the pipes last season, keeping the Bolts in the game when Vasilevskiy went down with an injury.
Last season, Louis Domingue played in a total of 26 games for the Lightning. During that time, Domingue maintained a 21-5-0 record with a Goals Against Average of 2.88 and a Save Percentage of .908. While those numbers may not seem flashy and record-breaking, they are very solid numbers for someone who generally doesn’t get a lot of ice time.
This brings us to July 1, when the Tampa Bay Lightning signed free agent goaltender Curtis McElhinney to a two-year contract worth around $1.3 million per year. McElhinney spent the 2018-19 season with the Carolina Hurricanes where he played in 33 games with a 20-11-2 record, a Goals Against Average of 2.58, and a Save Percentage of .912.
After the Ryan Callahan trade, the Lightning has added yet another player between the pipes. In exchange for Ryan Callahan and the Lightning’s fifth-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Bolts received goaltender Mike Condon and the Ottawa Senators’ sixth-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Last season wasn’t quite as kind to Condon as it was to McElhinney. The 29-year-old netminder played just two games with the Senators last season where he carried a 0-2-0 record with a Goals Against Average of 6.40 and a Save Percentage of .800. It would be very challenging to see someone like Condon fill the shoes of someone like Domingue in the coming season.
Now, the question becomes, what in the world does the Tampa Bay Lightning do with all these goaltenders? It’s pretty clear the Lightning only needs two of them on the main roster heading into the 2019-20 season. So, what does this mean for the other two?
Well, it seems like Joe Smith from The Athletic has the exact answer to the question we’ve all been wondering. According to Smith, Julien BriseBois has been actively looking for a new team for Louis Domingue. This means there is at least one open spot on the Lightning’s main roster.
According to Corey Long from NHL.com, the player stepping in for Domingue is expected to be Curtis McElhinney. McElhinney certainly brings a lot of experience to the table, but does that experience warrant moving someone like Domingue who has played so well for the team?
The only situation in which we could see this move making sense would be more of a benefit to Domingue than anyone. Given the success he saw with the Lightning last season and the reinvigoration this has brought to his career, Domingue may be looking to go somewhere he can get more ice time.
As one can easily imagine, Vasilevskiy is going to get the bulk of the starts in the upcoming season. This would severely limit the amount of ice time of any backup goaltender unless, hockey gods forbid, Vasilevskiy runs into another injury situation.
This brings us to Mike Condon. According to Joe Smith, it looks as if Condon would be a good fit for the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. It’s hard to think someone with four seasons of NHL experience would be keen to take a position in the AHL, but stranger things have happened.
There are definitely a lot of moving parts when it comes to the Lightning’s roster at the moment. As we’ve said before, the Lightning has never been one to show all their cards at one time, so not everything is going to make total sense at the moment. However, when all is said and done, there is usually a pretty clear rhyme and reason to their actions. One would have to conclude this situation is no different.
It will definitely be interesting to see how the goaltender situation eventually shakes out. In the meantime, all Tampa Bay Lightning fans can do is sit back and watch as the pieces fall into place one by one. We are a little over two months away from the start of the 2019-20 season, so all will be answered soon enough.