On Nov. 1, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they traded backup goaltender Louis Domingue to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional seventh-round pick.
Normally, a trade this small wouldn’t garner attention, but the move sent an emotional shock wave throughout the Lightning organization. Even though Domingue had only been with the team for about two years, he endeared himself to the fans and franchise, giving Tampa Bay someone to cheer for whether he was on or off the ice.
Now that he has been traded, let’s look back at Domingue’s short but incredibly active time with the Lightning.
Domingue Started as an Afterthought for the Lightning
When Domingue was acquired by Lightning in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes, he joined the franchise with little fanfare. The move was made in order to shore up a weak goaltending corps for Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
Once he started playing in Syracuse, however, Domingue proved that he was more than his mediocre stats would show. He immediately led the team to an eight-game winning streak that propelled the young squad towards a playoff run.
Not long after he established himself in Syracuse, then Lightning backup Petr Budaj suffered a major injury that required Domingue to receive an NHL call-up. During this stint, he owned the crease, showcasing that he could be Andrei Vasilevskiy’s backstop of the future.
By the end of the season, Domingue had taken over the backup role, forcing the Lightning to trade Budaj in order to clear room for him. They then went on to sign him to a two-year, $2.3-million extension to keep him in Tampa Bay.
Domingue’s 2018-19 Season Was Perfect for Lightning
With his role established in Tampa Bay, Domingue entered the 2018-19 season with a stable job and a clear path for success. He started out the season with mixed results but did more than enough to justify his playing time with the team.
Then, after Vasilevskiy went down with an injury in early November, Domingue got the call to become a short-term starter. In this role he excelled, helping to carry the Lightning through what could have been a dark patch in their historic year.
After Vasilevskiy returned from injury, Domingue fell back into a comfortable backup role, ending the season with a 21-5-0 record. This play was exactly what the Lightning needed at the time, allowing the team to rest their starter while feeling confident that their backup could win any game.
2019 Offseason Was Botched for Domingue
Heading into the 2019 offseason, things looked clear for the Lightning and Domingue as far as goaltending went. He had one more season to play behind Vasilevskiy as he continued to make the case that he should be a starting NHL goaltender.
The only issue is that Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois saw things differently. He thought that he could move Domingue to a team in need of goaltending while signing veteran free agent Curtis McElhinney to a short-term deal to fill in the gap.
While this idea made sense in a vacuum, it didn’t work in practice. The Lightning signed McElhinney, but couldn’t find a suitor for Domingue, causing a logjam at the position. By the start of the 2019-20 season, he was sent back to the Crunch, a role that he seemed to have grown past at this point in his career.
Lightning Should Cheer For Domingue
In many ways, Domingue’s exit from Tampa Bay was one of the worst mishandlings of a player made by the franchise in years. The Lightning lost a secure backup, who was beloved to the franchise, for only a conditional seventh-round pick.
However, the fact that BriseBois parted with Domingue for such a small return shows that he still believes in his former goaltender. He probably thinks that he could be an NHL starter and that it was doing him no good to play in Syracuse.
Either way, Lightning fans should continue to cheer on Domingue. He was one of the best personalities for the franchise in recent memory, and he left a mark that will not soon be forgotten.