We've spoken in the recent past about the Tampa Bay Lightning balancing a "win now" approach with one that wins perennially into the future.
So with the war chest of assets stockpiled by Steve Yzerman in the past 18 months and the Lightning at the top of the Eastern Conference entering play on February 10, one has to wonder just what Steve Yzerman will be looking for on the open market and what the team will be willing to part with to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup this year. Of course, Tampa Bay in't exactly drowning in cap space, which limits some options.
Will Tampa Bay look to add forwards at the deadline?
No, probably not. Even with Cedric Paquette dinged up the team has enough healthy forwards in the lineup now plus Vladisalv Namestnikov tearing up the AHL and a phone-call away. With Carter Ashton and David Broll in the fold to bolster a playoff run for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, it's extremely unlikely Yzerman will be willing to pay deadline prices to add forward depth to an already strong group up front.
Consider, also, that the Lightning are 1st in the NHL with 3.22 goals scored per game, well above 2nd place Dallas and not in desperate need of a "top-6 winger" like so many contending teams often are at deadline time. In fact, if Yzerman wanted to be bold, flipping a top-6 winger now in a trade to address other areas would be a bold move that could pay dividends.
Names to keep your eye on: Brett Connolly
What about defense?
As you likely expected this is the area Tampa needs, and likely will look to, address. With Matt Carle and Radko Gudas still shelved, the Lightning are dressing 3 out of these 4 defensemen every night: Andrej Sustr, Mark Barberio, Nikita Nesterov, Luke Witkowski. All have performed admirably and have stopgapped the blue line well. But sheltering the rookies puts undue pressure on Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, and Jason Garrison to anchor their pairs and do the heavy-lifting. Getting another experienced, skilled hand back there has to be priority number one.
The question is still who. Expect Tampa to inquire on everyone -- Yzerman always does his homework. Don't rule anyone who can move the puck on the back-end out, though one wonders if the team wouldn't prefer making a bigger deal for a guy with term as opposed to renting someone just for a playoff run.
Names to keep your eye on: Jeff Petry, Andrej Sekera, Cody Franson, Keith Yandle
And in net?
With Evgeni Nabokov moved to the San Jose Sharks likely to retire, the goaltending depth chart probably looks how the organization wants it to; Ben Bishop as the starter in the NHL with Andrei Vasilevskiy nudging through the door to the NHL in a back-up role, but a back-up that will play quite a bit. Kristers Gudlevskis is refining his game at the AHL level with Allen York to back-him up on a minor-league deal. Adam Wilcox continues to be the big question mark at the NCAA level; he can opt to become a free agent in August if he so chooses.
Oddly enough, what Tampa does here may depend on Wilcox. The Lightning will probably seek to cut costs and reserve resources by not dealing for a more experienced back-up and trusting Vasilevskiy and/or Gudlevskis in that role. How the team feels about their chances of signing Wilcox to potentially tandem with Gudlevskis in Syracuse this fall could inform their decision-making here. Gudlevskis, or Wilcox, could both be trade chips in a move made to add defense.
Names to keep your eye on: Kristers Gudlevskis, Adam Wilcox