Over the course of GM Steve Yzerman's tenure as the man calling the shots in Tampa Bay, a few recurring storylines and buzzphrases have cropped up both within the Raw Charge community and without.
"Yzerman is Jedi" has often been used in reference to Yzerman's uncanny ability to squeeze value out of tough situations and spin straw into gold when it comes to asset management. A recent example? Turning disgruntled captain Martin St. Louis, who demanded a trade but had but one acceptable destination, into a pair of 1st round picks (one of which was later converted into two 2014 2nd rounders and a pair of solid defense prospects).
If anyone asks me about the Gagner trade, this is going to be my reaction. All I've got at this point. pic.twitter.com/2CL1algODm— Alexis Boucher (@alexis_b82) June 30, 2014
"#Yzerplan" has mostly been about accepting that short-term losses can lead to long-term gains, and that not every deal makes sense right away but if you have faith the big picture will present itself over time. This one gets uttered most in regards to re-building what was, before Yzerman and Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray, a very bare cupboard.
Lastly, there's "Yzerman'd", the one that gets mentioned when bloggers and Twitterers and fans all conspire online to presume to know what Steve Yzerman is going to do only to have him go completely off board and do something wacky and unexpected instead.
On Sunday night, Yzerman went three for three.
The night began harmlessly enough -- forward Teddy Purcell, signed to a contract extension in the summer of 2012 -- seemed like the odd man out with Ryan Callahan in the fold and a number of skill wingers on entry-level deals banging on (or busting through) the door to the NHL.
His $4.5 million dollar contract seemed a bit high for a guy who never really materialized into a primary scoring threat, but instead continued to be a steady complementary playmaking winger who helped the Lightning's overall puck possession game.
So when the announcement came down that he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, well, no one was really surprised. The return -- former 6th overall pick Sam Gagner -- was a bit weird, considering the increased cap hit for Gagner ($4.8 million) and the fact that Purcell was long speculated as expendable because of forward depth ready for permanent top-9 roles in the NHL.
Complicating matters was a now-deleted tweet from team beat reporter Missy Zielinski claiming the Lightning were planning on putting Gagner on waivers Monday for the purpose of using a regular-course (non-compliance) buyout on his contract. As a 24-year old, the Lightning would only have been responsible for 1/3 of Gagner's remaining salary, as opposed to 1/2 if they had elected to use one on Purcell instead.
That answered the question of "why Gagner?" if the question was about a buyout, but the tweet was quickly deleted and not long after Gagner was flipped -- along with winger B.J. Crombeen -- to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a sixth round pick in 2015.
That sixth round pick seemed like a meager return considering the pieces going to Arizona. It's unclear the role, if any, a potential plan to buy Gagner out played into things, but it seems like Don Maloney knew this was a salary dump for Yzerman and knew the Bolts had zero intention of keeping Gagner around, giving Yzerman next to zero leverage.
--> Yzerman cont "I had to move cash and you have no idea how hard it is to move a contract right now.'' #tblightning— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) June 30, 2014
That helps explain the next wrinkle in Yzerman's whirlwind night: retaining 1/3 of Sam Gagner's salary in order to facilitate the deal. As noted there:
That seems like a pittance for Gagner and Crombeen, but this is a pure salary dump move and Arizona has an internal cap to worry about. You're not going to get full value for assets everyone knows you don't actually want.
Finally, just when you thought you could go to bed safely, Yzerman traded 4th line pivot Nate Thompson to the Anaheim Ducks for a pair of 2015 picks.
This move, while not totally expected, isn't all that surprising either when you consider Yzerman's apparent desire to clear cap space and the fact that Lightning head coach Jon Cooper leaned pretty heavily on Cedric Paquette in a bottom-six centerman role in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens.
With the dust now settled, the ultimate goal now seems fairly clear:
With the 3 trades tonight, TB saved $5,583,333 in cash and $5,650,000 in cap space; plus added a 4th, a 6th and a 7th round pick.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 30, 2014
The question remains, however, just who is Yzerman targeting in free agency?