After the Tampa Bay Lightning’s disastrous 2008-09 campaign, its second straight season missing the playoffs, sophomore Bolts GM Brian Lawton is attempting to steady the ship.
The 44-year-old former No. 1 draft pick of the Minnesota North Stars and NHL player agent took time to speak to THN.com about his moves this summer, advising young players, trading Vinny Lecavalier, the team’s ownership situation and his expectations for 2009-10.
Part 2 of the interview will appear in my blog space next week.
The Hockey News: Let’s start with your latest move – why bring in Todd Fedoruk (and David Hale) for Radim Vrbata?
Brian Lawton: Obviously it wasn’t working out with Radim with our team, so we had somewhat of a limited pool and we were out there attempting to make a move.
Phoenix is somewhere he had been willing to go in the past, so we were excited for him to get an opportunity.
Todd and David both fit two areas of the club that we’re trying to work on, a bottom six forward and our overall physical grit. I really want to make sure there is more competition for those positions than we had last year.
It’s really the same thing on ‘D.’ It’s no secret, we probably had one of the worst defenses in the league last year and we’ve gone to great lengths this summer to try to improve that with some veteran players like Mattias Ohlund.
THN: Do you plan on making more moves before the season begins or is your roster set?
BL: We’ll probably make another move or two, but that’s not definite. It’s very difficult to get things done right now, very quiet. Most people have already signed their teams for the year and are ready for the season to start.
You have a lot of teams up against the cap; a lot of teams with one-way contracts. I feel a lot better about our position this year than I did last year.
THN: Was Mattias Ohlund the one guy who you had targeted from Day 1?
BL: We had three guys on our list that we really felt would be beneficial and we really felt like we needed to get one of them to get back on track to respectability.
Mattias was on that list, the other two, of course, were Scotty Niedermayer and (Jay) Bouwmeester.
Those guys signed quickly and Mattias was the only one available on our list and it made it real easy as far as giving us direction on July 1.
THN: Was Ohlund’s ability to mentor Victor Hedman at all involved in the thought process behind signing him?
BL: It definitely was. That’s an added bonus. It’s something we wanted, to have a mentor for Victor either way.
We wanted to get an anchor, quite frankly. We believe strongly in Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros, but they’re still young in their careers and we were looking for somebody with a little more experience than those guys.
Mattias really fit that bill for us, as did Matt Walker to some degree – not in experience, but certainly his toughness.
THN: Going into negotiations, is it different for you because you know what it’s like being an agent?
BL: Yeah, I’m used to beating people over the head instead of getting beaten over the head (laughs). I think that helps both sides.
THN: Was there anybody else you went after but didn’t get?
BL: We had a really short list. There really wasn’t. The No. 1 need we had was to shore up our blueline.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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