By Dan Williams @Dan_Wi11iams on April 18, 2014
The 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning have been the surprise team of the NHL season. Injuries this year have allowed Tampa’s young players the opportunity for significant ice time, and they haven’t disappointed. With these rookies coming into their own, the Lighting have major decisions to make pertaining to the roster. Here are five players who may not be back for the Bolts next season.
At the beginning of the season, Lightning coach Jon Cooper deployed a "two starting goalie" approach with Lindback and Ben Bishop. Both had their chances and Bishop capitalized on his opportunities throughout the year. Now with Bishop hurt, Lindback is playing well in net for Tampa leading into the playoffs. Lindback is a RFA after this season, and the Lightning have solid young goalies waiting in the minors, making it easier to lose him.
Malone, 35, has had his play decline from two seasons ago when he scored 20 goals for the Lightning. With 15 total points in 57 games for the Bolts this year, it looked like Malone's contract would be bought out by the Lightning. Now with Malone's arrest for DUI and drug possession, his release seems like a foregone conclusion. The Lightning are a young team, and Malone's actions could have a negative impact on the impressionable players.
Salo has been a staple of consistency in the NHL, but at 39 years old, his playing days could be numbered in Tampa. Salo is a free agent after the season, and while he may have some left in the tank, his age mixed with his .75 million salary could be deciding factors in the Lightning parting ways with the defenseman. The Bolts have multiple young talents who have seen significant ice time at defense, making Salo expendable.
Lee is one of the young defensemen Tampa brought in to see action in the NHL. After bouncing around between the minors and NHL, Lee finally looked like he was poised to be a mainstay in Tampa. However, an ACL injury in the AHL playoffs in 2012 delayed his return to the lineup. He hasn't seen a game in a Tampa uniform since. Now a free agent after the season, Tampa could simply part ways with the seven-year pro.
When Callahan was traded at the deadline this season, it was widely thought that the Lightning would have no chance of retaining the former Rangers captain based on his asking price. Callahan appears to be enjoying the playoff push in Tampa, but he is a free agent after the season. Unless the Lightning release a large portion of their contracts, Callahan will be skating elsewhere in 2014-15.
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