2014 NHL trade deadline: Responding to Lightning top-4 defenseman speculation

It seems lik ea reach to imply Brian Rafalski's comeback attempt was tied to the Tampa Bay Lightning seeking a top-4 defenseman. - Bruce Bennett

It's not news that the Tampa Bay Lightning may want to add strength at the blue line before the NHL trade deadline... It is, however, a stretch to insinuate that a player who hasn't played in two seasons was the answer the Lightning were looking for.

The Fourth Period ran a headline earlier this week that shouldn't be looked at as something new for the Lightning - it's a story many fans and online personalities have mused about for a while now:  The Lightning are likely in the market to add a defenseman, specifically a top-4 defenseman that could compliment and work with Victor Hedman, Matt Carle, and Radko Gudas.

What does not sit well with me is how they built the case for it, latching on to a comeback attempt as evidence of the desire to add a top-4 D:

The Tampa Bay Lightning would like to add a top-four defenseman to their roster before the trade deadline comes and goes in early-March.

It had been widely speculated that the Bolts were waiting to see if three-time Stanley Cup champion Brian Rafalski could return to action, but he has cut his comeback short.

Rafalski, 40, had signed on with the ECHL's Florida Everblades, but was released from the team on Tuesday.

This is where I have the problem:  40-year old, three time Stanley Cup winner Brian Rafalski.  That's not Brian who I have an issue with (as a person or a player), it's the idea that Rafalski was supposed to step in as a top-4 d-man that reeks.

If the Lightning are serious about he playoffs, and of course there's no reason to think Steve Yzerman would throw up his hands and say "we're giving up! It'd be cooler to get a top draft pick again," they'll want to add a veteran presence.  Rafalski on the roster would have fit that mold, but not in the role of a top-4 defenseman.  The idea that a player, coming back after two seasons being out of hockey, would get top-4 minutes (after a mid-season comeback attempt, no less) is absurd.

If general manager Steve Yzerman is looking to add to the roster in an integral role, he'll be looking for a longer-term answer (...which seems to be implied in the latter part of the Fourth Period article, latching on to the New York Islanders Andrew MacDonald ).  I don't expect a rental-player acquisition for a top-4 slot, and if the roster is to be bolstered by a veteran who has "been there" in the NHL playoffs, I don't see Tampa willingly spending much to get it.  They have their cup-winning captain in Martin St. Louis, they have players who have  competed in the NHL playoffs before...

An acquisition strengthens the roster outright (and comes at an acceptable price), it's possible to see Yzerman not go after that veteran presence for the playoffs.

As for a top-4 defenseman, I'll let that play out as it will... Who the targets are and what the Lightning may or may not be willing to give up is worth discussing.

The NHL trade deadline is March 5th, a scant number of days after the league resumes play after the 2014 Winter Olympic break.

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