On Thursday, February 16th, the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves with a record of 24-26-6, in fourth place of the NHL's Southeast Division, 11 points out of first place and 13th (out of 15) in the Eastern Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot. That afternoon, as they prepared for a game against the San Jose Sharks (a game they would win 6-5 in overtime), it was announced that forward Dominic Moore had been traded to the Sharks for a second round draft pick.
This signified that the Lightning, struggling throughout the season just to remain within sight of contention, were now looking beyond the 2011-12 season and preparing for a hopefully brighter future. It was heralded as the unofficially offical announcement that they would enter the trade market as sellers, not buyers.
Speculation ran rampant as to who would stay and who would go, but it was generally agreed that the Lightning would not be among the more active participants. As usual, when it comes to things like this, the speculation was incorrect.
Thursday, February 16 - The Lightning acquired a second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (previously acquired from Minnesota) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Dominic Moore and their seventh-round selection in 2012.
"It's tough. It's tough to lose teammates, it doesn't matter how long you've known them. Dom [Moore] is a great guy, a very intelligent man...I wish him all the best. He's going to a great organization." - Dwayne Roloson
Saturday, February 18 - After a five-day period where he was asked not to participate in games or practices in order to stay healthy and maintain his value as a trade asset, defenseman Pavel Kubina was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the Florida Panthers second-round pick in either 2012 or 2013 (previously acquired, Florida's choice), a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and left wing Jon Kalinski. Later that night, Tampa Bay beat the Washington Capitals 2-1.
"This team is always going to belong to my heart" - Kubina
Tuesday, February 21 - The Lightning acquired a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as well as defenseman Sebastien Piche in a three-team trade. They traded forward Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey and then sent Quincey to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for their first-round pick and Piche.
They also acquired forward Brendon Segal from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for minor league forward Matt Fornataro. The Lightning closed out a four-game homestand that night, beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2
"Obviously it was an emotional day for a lot of us, we lost Downs [Downie], a guy we were all so close with in this room, everyone respects and loves. It's the business of hockey sometimes-it's not always pretty and we don't have control of it. He was a great friend and a great teammate and just wish him the best of luck and move on the best we can. I think we were able to do that with a big win tonight." - Steven Stamkos
Monday, February 27 - The Lightning acquired defenseman Mike Commodore from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
"If Commodore plays 15 games this season AND Lightning makes playoffs, Wings get 2013 7th. If parameters not met, Lightning owes nothing." Damian Cristodero, via Twitter (@LightningTimes)
They then acquired defenseman Keith Aulie from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Carter Ashton, arguably the Lightning's highest-rated prospect.
The Lightning's final deal of the day, and the trading period, saw them pick up defenseman Brian Lee from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Matt Gilroy.
And when all the dust had finally settled, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman took questions from the media:
Q: You had stated that you didn't expect to be active today. What happened, did a lot of phone calls come along?
A: As far as Keith Aulie goes, he's a player we've been talking about for some time now. We weren't sure if there was going to be anything to that. I got a call from Toronto this morning indicating that they wanted to pursue it and we got that one done. In acquiring Mike Commodore; we have some injuries on our blue line and we're looking to do some other things. Detroit wanted to give him an opportunity to play. I had Mike with us at the World Championships back in '07 in Russia and he was a good player, and a good teammate on the team. I think he'll help us out and provide us with some depth on our blue line. And as far as Matt Gilroy for Brian Lee; Bryan Murray called me this afternoon and we had not had any previous discussions. He asked about Matt and we liked Brian Lee. We think he's still a prospect. He's a young guy with some potential. I think the trade was a good fit for both clubs.
Q: You talked about Keith Aulie last year. Where do you see him fitting in now?
A: We're going to have to get a Visa for him. That might take a couple of days, but our intention is to bring him in and put him in our lineup. He's a young guy, and he's been up and down a bit in the American League. We would like to get him into our lineup and give him more NHL games and experience. From watching him, we think he's close to being an NHL regular.
Q: Was Lee someone you were looking at last year?
A: We had some discussions with Bryan last year. Just a brief discussion. We he called today, it just seemed to make sense with us. We're getting a younger player who has the chance to grow into an NHL regular. When Ottawa was here just over two weeks ago, we thought he played really well. Again, he's a pretty big body, he moves well out there and he's still relatively young. We think he has very good potential.
Q: Were you trying to get younger on defense?
A: Defensemen are hard to find. We're looking for young guys, and for guys whose contracts are appropriate. And Keith Aulie is obviously coming off his entry-level deal. We believe he's going to play for a long time. It fits with what we're trying to do, and the same thing with Brian Lee. He's a little bit older than Keith, but we're obviously trying to find good players, and good players that don't make a lot of money. And that's not an easy thing to do.
Q: Where does Commodore fit in? Is he going to play with Victor Hedman?
A: We're uncertain as to Victor's status right now. And Marc-Andre Bergeron's for that matter as well. With Keith Aulie and Mike Commodore, we're at seven right now. We're not sure on Victor or Marc-Andre. Commodore provides us with depth and a big body, and an NHL defenseman who can kill penalties. He's also an experienced guy and a great teammate.
Q: What is Hedman's status?
A: I'm hoping to find out tonight. He has an appointment to see a doctor this afternoon. We'll learn some more tonight?
Q: Did you think at the start of the day that you'd have been able to revamp the blue line the way you have?
A: I really wasn't sure. We were hoping to acquire Keith Aulie, but really weren't sure where that was going to go. We're very pleased with that. We gave up a very good young prospect to get Keith, but we feel that with some of the forwards that we have and with players like Brett Connolly playing well, that we could afford to trade one forward for a defenseman. I came into today not expecting to do a whole lot, but we're pleased with the outcome of the afternoon.
Q: What will Brett Connolly's role be down the stretch?
A: He's going to play. I want to do what's best for Brett Connolly in the long run. To send him back to juniors and play or to keep him here; they're both good scenarios. The bottomline is that he's going to play. We're thinner up front and if you've seen the last two games; he's taking a regular shift. He's playing on the power play. With 20 games left in the season and if we make the playoffs, he'll get more experience. Playing in the NHL as a regular for 20 games, we think is a positive for him. And Guy Boucher and our players want to win. We want to keep our best team together and go forward.
Q: Did you have discussions about trading for a goaltender?
A: No, not in the last couple of days. It's obviously an issue that we've talked about for quite some time. There was nothing we could do that made sense for us.
Q: Did you think of extending Gilroy's contract?
A: I didn't talk with Matt's agent. Any discussion we had was that we're just going to continue to assess and figure out where we want to go. Our feeling going down the stretch is that we have some areas of concern on our team, and we'll see how the season plays out. We'll address everything at the end of the year
Q: Did you get any calls about Unrestricted Free Agents, such as Adam Hall or Brett Clark?
A: We got calls on a lot of players. We want to keep this group together and just can't unload everybody. We need players to play. What you're being offered for what that player brings you , what he brings you now and what you need for the rest of the season. Nothing we heard made sense for us.
Q: Did today's moves change how you're going to address your goaltending moving forward?
A: No. I don't really have an answer for you. We've acquired some defensemen is what we've done. Dwayne Roloson is an unrestricted free agent. Mathieu Garon is under contract. We'll continue through the offseason, and during The Draft, to see ways we can improve or be different in that position.
Q: Did you have any other discussions about goaltenders?
A: No, we really didn't talk about any goaltenders today.
Q: Aulie won't be here tomorrow?
A: We have to get him a Visa and that will take a couple days. I don't think he'll be able to travel before Wednesday.
When all is said and done...
The Lightning have added: defensemen Keith Aulie, Mike Commodore, Brian Lee and Sebastien Piche, forwards Jon Kalinski, Brendon Segal and Tim Wallace and a 2012 1st round, one definite 2012 2nd round, one 2012 or 2013 2nd round and one 2012 4th round draft pick.
In exchange for: Defensemen Matt Gilroy and Pavel Kubina, forwards Carter Ashton, Steve Downie, Matt Fornataro and Dominic Moore, a 7th round pick in the 2012 and a possible 7th round draft pick in 2013.
The Lightning currently find themselves with a record of 28-28-6, in fourth place of the Southeast Division, eight points out of first place and 11th (out of 15) in the Eastern Conference, six points out of a playoff spot.
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