2014 NHL Trade Deadline: Tampa Bay Lightning, Eastern Conference Reactions

Bruce Bennett

This NHL trade deadline was the busiest since 2010, with plenty of marquee players moved and a surprising amount of goaltenders changing teams. How did the Lightning fare, and how's the rest of the conference look as the playoff race heats up?

The 2014 NHL trade deadline day wast the busiest since 2010, even with all the players moved and deals made a day early.

There was almost a year's worth of complaining about the state of the NHL, especially with regards to trades.

"The lockout, and the resulting smaller salary cap, would restrict player movement", they said.

"The current standings reward failure too much. Too many teams think they have a chance. There are too many buyers and not enough sellers", they said.

They were wrong.

So how did the Tampa Bay Lightning do?

Losing a player like Martin St. Louis is an absolute gut punch. It also feels a little bit like a rusty knife in the back, and a teeny bit like going somewhere with a friend and getting ditched for cooler friends that live somewhere else.

Anger, sadness, frustration, loss, insecurity. Martin St. Louis put the fans that put him on a pedestal for over a decade through the wringer over these past few weeks. He also handcuffed his general manager (and the organization those fans root for) by requesting a trade but limiting his agreeable destinations to exactly one location: the New York Rangers.

All that considered, it's hard to look at the return on St. Louis and think anything but "Yzerman is Jedi".

The Lightning get back a 2015 1st rounder from the Rangers in a draft expected to be very deep and loaded with top-end talent. While the Rangers have figured things out this year, they have a very old core, and it's not a logical leap to think it's possible the Blueshirts have a bad year next season, leaving the Lightning with a very good pick in a very good draft year.

The Bolts also get a 2nd round selection in this year's draft that becomes a 1st rounder if the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Finals this season. But if Callahan re-signs in Tampa Bay, then the Lightning send their 2015 2nd to New York and get a 7th in 2015 back instead.

That's a pretty good haul for an expiring asset. Even in a best-case scenario, St. Louis plays maybe 100-150 more games with the Lightning. There's a very good chance Callahan and/or the picks from this deal end up contributing more over the next decade while Marty's sitting at home in Connecticut.

The Lightning also made a minor league deal sending away Matt Taormina and Dana Tyrell in exchange for some AHL depth forwards, but the success of failure of that deal is hard to judge. Julien BriseBois has a lot of work to do in this off season to rebuild Syracuse into an AHL contender again.

Ultimately, the Lightning missed out on adding the one thing they probably needed most for a serious run this season -- another defenseman. But Yzerman isn't the type of GM who makes knee-jerk moves and the Lightning are still building for the future, not for a last-ditch effort to win a Cup this season. It's clear either the market wasn't right or the player(s) he wanted weren't available; the St. Louis deal gives him more ammunition to potentially add an NHL D at the draft this spring.

What about the Atlantic Division?

The Boston Bruins continued their Cold War-style arms race with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Eastern Conference dominance. But instead of adding more scoring, they decided to load up on defense, claiming Corey Potter off waivers and trading away a 3rd round pick this year in exchange for the oft-injured (and former Tampa Bay Lightning) Andrej Meszaros.

Fortunately for the Bruins, mostly standing pat is kind of what you do when you're the class of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, and adding depth on the blue line is almost never a bad decision in the NHL.

The Ottawa Senators made a small splash acquiring Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers; he was held off the scoresheet in his first game with the Sens but definitely helps their top-6 forward group, particularly after giving up on Cory Conacher inexplicably. Ottawa still has significant issues on the blue line and in net, however, as they scratch and claw to keep pace in the playoff race.

The Montreal Canadiens made perhaps the biggest splash of the day by swooping in to nab Thomas Vanek, the best pure goal scorer moved on the deadline and also a notorious Lightning-killer. But he's the definition of a rental not expected to stay long-term in Montreal, and the Habs have bigger problems than scoring with Carey Price injured and Michel Therrien still calling the shots behind the bench. Adding Devan Dubnyk further highlights that perhaps the Habs aren't the serious contenders many seem to think they are after all.

The Buffalo Sabres were in full-on fire sale mode, the Toronto Maple Leafs basically did nothing, and the Florida Panthers "looked to the future" by trading away young players and acquiring a 35-year-old Roberto Luongo.

And the rest of the Eastern Conference?

The Rangers are obviously all-in, adding a 38-year old forward to an already aging team and leveraging future assets to do it. The Flyers, who have rebounded nicely from a very rocky start to the season, added Andrew MacDonald from the New York Islanders in your classic "overpaying for a top-4 defenseman" scenario.

The Pittsburgh Penguins arguably made the shrewdest moves shoring up their forward depth by adding Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak, but with Paul Martin and Kris Letang still out, you have to wonder why GM Ray Shero didn't do more to try and add another NHL defenseman like so many other teams did.

Now what?

It will take some time for the new-look Lightning to get their feet under them, but the organization has (however carefully) noted that Martin St. Louis was a distraction. Now he's gone. Some teams in the East got better, some seemed to just add more of the same. The reality is the Lightning play 14 home games and 6 away games before the playoffs and currently sit 4th in their division with two games in hand on both Montreal and Toronto.

2nd place in the Atlantic is still very much in play and it absolutely should be the goal for this new iteration of the Lightning to win it to make sure the Bolts play one of the Habs or Leafs on home ice in the first round.

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