Lightning Look to Contend, Long Term

The Bolts have been busy this week and last, adding depth and leadership to an already cup-worthy squad.

by Bardia Sinaee(TAMPA BAY, FL) – Six years from now, the NHL will be very different, but one thing is for sure, little Marty St. Louis will still be the heart and soul of the Lightning. Lightning GM Jay Feaster signed the speedy winger to a six-year, $31.5 million deal on Wednesday, in a week that seemed to resemble a rough sketch of the future of the current NHL champions. Feaster added depth at the front by re-signing center prospect John Toffey and signing winger Marek Kvapil. In addition to depth, Feaster ensured the team had true leadership in the form of veteran winger and captain Dave Andreychuk.

Andreychuk has been a consistent 20-goaler and a gem in the locker room for the Lightning organization for the past three seasons, and he now owns a two-year contract that ensures he will continue to do so until he retires. His reasoning for re-signing is definitely not under question; it took 22 seasons and about 1600 games but Andreychuk finally lifted the cup at the end of last season with the Bolts, and he is thankful to the organization just as they are thankful to him, as proven by GM Feaster, who had this to say about the veteran, ”Dave Andreychuk walked into our locker-room four seasons ago and helped us find our way.”

Yet with veterans and wingers aside, Jay Feaster also established some insurance down the middle by re-signing the home-grown phenom Vincent Lecavalier to a 4-year, $27.5 million contract. Vinny – as he is know to the Tampa fans – is only 25, but has improved every year since he was drafted first overall by the organization in 1998. But don’t let his youth deceive you, the 6’4″ centre already holds Tampa Bay franchise records for points, goals and game-winning goals. Lecavalier only needs to play nine more games to surpass Rob Zamuner for most played in a Lightning uniform.

Lecavalier’s skill is unquestionable, and GM Feaster was first in line to gloat about the young forward’s talents, “We have grown together with Vinny over the past seven years and we are confident that, given his age and his maturation and development, he will only continue to improve and become even more productive and more of a complete, all-around player for this franchise.”

All in all, most experts believe that re-signing young star forward Brad Richards will put the icing on the cake – so to speak – and erase most doubt that this organization will challenge for the cup for years to come. Richards, 25, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP for the Lightning last season, and he will most likely be a crucial part of the nucleus of the team for several years; along with Marty, Dave, and Vinny.