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Promotions lead to cap problem
By Times Staff
Published October 31, 2005
The Lightning's little experiment of bringing up Evgeny Artyukhin and Nick Tarnasky to replace veterans Chris Dingman and Martin Cibak in the lineup has been a mild success on the ice, but a major headache off it.
The two have played so well that they aren't coming out of the lineup and that is starting to cause salary cap problems. Instead of carrying 20 players like it wanted, the Lightning is carrying 22 (well, 23 counting goalie Brian Eklund , who is here until the team learns how serious Sean Burke 's groin injury is).
"It is a problem," coach John Tortorella said. "But I can tell you this. We will never, as an organization, make a decision on a kid based on money. We still go on merit here. They aren't coming out of the lineup because they deserve to play. They aren't going to come out because of money."
Sooner or later, however, the Lightning is going to have to make a decision.
The problem is the Lightning cannot completely trust Artyukhin, 22 and Tarnasky, 23 because, well, they are kids. It's not unusual for a prospect to come up from the minors, play well for a spell and then tail off as the grind of the season starts to wear on them.
Sometimes that happens after one or two games. Sometimes it takes as long as a month. Sometimes it never happens. So far, through five games, Artyukhin and Tarnasky show no signs of struggling.
The Lightning's fear is it will trade or lose Dingman and/or Cibak to waivers in an attempt to send them to the minors and then Artyukhin and Tarnasky will fall off the map. Instead of having four players for two spots, the Lightning will have none.
The simple thing to do is pat Artyukhin and Tarnasky on the back, tell them they've done well and have a good future and ship them back to the minors. But that goes against everything Tortorella believes in - that players who deserve to play will play.
So the Lightning is stuck bumping its head on the cap until it learns whether Artyukhin and Tarnasky are flashes in the pan or reliable NHL players. And who knows how long that will take?
Eventually, Artyukhin and Tarnasky will have an off night and the Lightning might jump on that to send them back to the minors and get Dingman and Cibak back into the lineup. Until that happens, the Lightning will continue to have salary cap problems that could come back to haunt them when it tries to add a player through a trade later this season.
LIGHTNING STRIKES OLYMPICS: Thrashers GM Don Waddell , who is also GM for the United States Olympic hockey team, confirmed that Lightning goalie John Grahame is on the list being considered by Team USA. Quite frankly, he should make the team. If Team USA takes three goalies, as expected, they should be the Islanders' Rick DiPietro , who is the best American-born goalie, Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Grahame.
Grahame is one of nine Lightning players with a good shot at the Olympics. Canada likely will select Brad Richards , Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier and, possibly, Dan Boyle . Vinny Prospal and Pavel Kubina should play for the Czech Republic. Fredrik Modin is a shoo-in for Sweden. And Dmitry Afanasenkov could make the Russian team.
ODDS AND ENDS: The best sign for the Lightning in the past week? St. Louis is starting to regain his MVP form with two goals and two assists in the past three games. And both goals were beauties. ... Despite its 7-3-2 record, the Lightning has looked inconsistent this season. So has the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup final opponent. Calgary lost four of its first five, then went two weeks winning every other game, and now has lost three straight to sit at 4-7-2. ... The Lightning had its first fight of the season Saturday and who would have guessed it was Lecavalier? By our scorecard, Lecavalier, using his left jab, earned a split decision over Atlanta tough guy Andy Sutton .