When defenseman Michael Kostka was picked up off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks, it wasn't just a depth move by the Lightning to shore up the organization and take pressure off the overtaxed Syracuse Crunch, but also a morale boost of sorts as I've mentioned before. Kostka played with the Norfolk Admirals under Jon Cooper in 2011-12 and was part of the Calder Cup winning club that featured the likes of Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas, and Mark Barberio. Kostka is already seeing a good bit of playing time (he's played 10:27on average since being claimed) and has two assists in those four games.
Tuesday's pre-2014 NHL trade deadline waiver wire offered two very intriguing players that have had successes in the Lightning organization under Cooper as potential depth additions for the club: center Trevor Smith and left wing Cory Conacher.
While I expect Smith to pass through waivers and be sent by his current club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, to their AHL affiliate (the Toronto Marlies), it's Conacher that made many an NHL fan (and specifically a Lightning fan) do a double-take. A year ago, Conacher was shipped out with a 4th round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators for goalie Ben Bishop.
On the heels of Conacher's stellar play in the AHL and bright NHL debut, this was painful to see at the time... But with Bishop's play this season, the entire trade seemed warranted. And with Conacher's play in Ottawa this season (59 games played, 4 goals, 16 assists); it's seemed like an outright steal of a deal.
I'm not here to crap on Cory Conacher, which many are doing in a knee-jerk reaction to the news Cory is on waivers ("Tampa really suckered Ottawa" being the general reaction.) My thought is actually the opposite - to praise him and plead to general manager Steve Yzerman to place a waiver claim on the wing.
While many will look at the Lightning and say the core revolves around Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, those two players aren't filling out most of the roster spots for Tampa Bay. The Tampacuse core is, which includes head coach Jon Cooper whom Cory had a large amount of success with in his time in the AHL (111 regular season games played, 51 goals, 57 assists.) The idea of bringing back Conacher really revolves around the core of guys he's played with before and the morale perk that would come with it for both those guys and Conacher himself.
The 20 points in 59 games is the aberration of Conacher's career at this point.
Yzerman labeled Conacher as expendable last year because of the size of the Lightning forward corps - having undersized wing Martin St. Louis and undersized center Tyler Johnson was a lack-of-size enough. I think, however, that lack of size has proven to be moot with the capabilities of both players. This entire idea, to bring Cory back, isn't to create a midget line of undersized forwards on the top line (besides, with Stamkos return imminent, I doubt Johnson remains paired with St. Louis much longer.) The morale boost is one integral part of the idea, as well as allowing the Bolts to return someone like Nikita Kucherov or J.T. Brown to Syracuse (which is sorely in need of help at the moment.)
There's really no risk in bringing Conacher back, and no cost. And it makes Ottawa look further foolish if Conacher does return and shines (though that could happen if he's claimed by anyone - but it would be accentuated if he returned to the Lightning and did it).
I'm asking here, and I doubt my pleas will sway anyone, please bring him back Steve. There's nothing to lose but there is something to gain.