When the Tampa Bay Lightning inked Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year contract extension this summer, a deal that doesn’t go into effect until the 2017-18 season, it appeared as if the organization was committed to the Russian net minder as its future number one goalie. With Ben Bishop set to hit free agency next July, the idea was to give Vasilevskiy about 35 starts this season to be sure he was ready to assume the load as a starter. After eight starts this season, it’s becoming clear to all that the 22-year-old is most definitely ready to be the man for the Lightning, writes Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.
Vasilevskiy is 6 – 1 – 1 on the season and has a GAA of just 1.50 and a Save % of 0.951 in eight appearances. His hot start comes on the heels of helping the Lightning make it to game seven of the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh last season after Bishop was injured. Vasilevskiy was solid in the postseason, stopping 0.925% of the shots he faced in eight games.
Assuming Vasilevskiy continues to develop into a quality starting option, his extension, which calls for an AAV of just $3.5MM, will prove to be a tremendous bargain for a team that already has a lot of its cap space tied up in long-term deals.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division:
- The Boston Bruins have long been thought to be in the market for a top-four blue liner, with Kevin Shattenkirk being one name linked to the team. However, given the team’s recent offensive struggles, Bruins management may want to reconsider their plans. Joe Haggerty, of CSNNE, reports that both the players and the coaches are becoming frustrated with the team’s lackluster goal scoring. David Pastrnak, the team’s gifted 20-year-old sniper, leads the team with 12 goals in just 16 games. Brad Marchand, currently out with a lower-body-injury, is second with six tallies while fourth-line pivot Dominic Moore ranks third on the club with five markers. Overall the Bruins rank 25th in the NHL, averaging just 2.3 goals-per-game. However, defenseman Torey Krug is confident the goals will come given the team finished fifth in the league last season in scoring: “When you see other teams get lucky bounces here and there – in Ottawa they’re shooting the puck wide and it goes off one of our guys and in, or in Minnesota the same thing happens – and we find ourselves not getting those bounces, then it starts to get frustrating when you’re getting good looks like we have been. Every team goes through these little lulls and we’ll work our way out of it. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.”
- While the Toronto Maple Leafs are certainly a fun team to watch, bouyed by a talented young core of forwards, veteran head coach Mike Babcock knows defense wins championships. Ian Shantz of the Toronto Sun writes that Babcock is asking more from his blue liners as the team battles to stay relevant in the postseason race. Babcock singles out Morgan Rielly as the guy he wants to see play like a #1 defender: “We need (Morgan) Rielly to be our No. 1 guy. We need him to be very good for us, and that’s not racing around the rink. That’s playing without the puck.” The Leafs do have some talent on the back end but it’s likely that if they are buyers at the trade deadline that the blue line is the one area the team will look to improve.