clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 NHL trade deadline: Lightning shouldn't look long-term or rental

New, comments

Trade season brings two mentalities, and neither is necessarily right in finding blue-line help for the Lightning's playoff run.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry is seen as one of the hot targets at the 2015 NHL trade deadline.
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry is seen as one of the hot targets at the 2015 NHL trade deadline.
Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

There is a narrative in discussions about the Tampa Bay Lightning acquiring another defenseman at the 2015 NHL trade deadline that is a bit fixated in its scope. Actually, there are two mentalities and narratives at play and both don't necessarily work at the place where Tampa Bay is and where it wants to go.

The first narrative is the stay-the-course, long-term building of the Lightning; players to be acquired are of a certain age and should boost the team for years to come, maturing with the core team members. Adding talent is nice but experience in the playoffs isn't a necessity in this mindset.  It's what made former Toronto defenseman Cody Franson the ideal target for many a fan and blogger (not just with the Lightning) up until Franson was traded as part of a package from the Maple Leafs to the Nashville Predators last week. Other big names, little experience guys are out there and being tossed around regularly as the alternative, the target.

The other mentality that exists is the most traditional of pro-sports trade deadline moves for contenders of any variety: sell off any asset you can for as much/little help as you can get and cross your fingers for that league title. Tomorrow be damned. This basically says rental players are a-okay and a new five-year building plan (going into effect sometime in the near future when the current roster peters out) is worth suffering again for one shot at glory. This opens up a new market of players and salary cap baggage.

What's bothering me about either narrative at the moment is thinking about how the Tampa Bay Lightning, specifically the defense as a cohesive unit and in the larger system, lack experience and could use more time (not a bucket load) for players to develop.

Experience is someone who has been there, competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs a few times. While Keith Yandle might be cited as a good example of what I'm talking about, Yandle's experience is with the Coyotes. That's not exactly a team known for putting together formidable playoff teams.

The youth/longevity crowd sees Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers as a legitimate option.  That's a more complicated acquisition than it looks from the surface, specifically with competing in the 2015 NHL playoffs. Petry lacks any playoff experience at the NHL level that'd aid the existing defensive group. Even worse is that Petry is a product of a franchise where bad habits and poor conditioning / training of its players makes him (and others with the club) a reclamation project. A team retooling for next season and on the bubble at the moment (the Flyers, the Kings, and the Panthers) can take a chance on Petry because this season isn't as much of a goal as next season, when the teams will be further retooled and ready to make a stronger playoff push.

Young talent would be nice, but the Lightning (to compete in the playoffs now) needs something more immediate that raises the game of the existing defense. Not necessarily upgrading the top-4 as-so-much rounding out the corps in general and shedding the reliance on rookies.

Stephane Robidas of the Maple Leafs is an example - he's not a long-term answer as someone to build around, but he's also not a rental player (he has another 2 years on his contract; his cap hit is $3 million). He brings hefty playoff experience to a contending team and the ability to eat minutes. Options like this - not marquee guys on the market but solid depth - that Steve Yzerman is likely looking at. It's not a warm-body acquisition nor is it a project.

There are more guys like Robidas on the market, and it's the market that's going to dictate if the big names like Yandle are truly available or if you're going to have to commit far too many resources in order to land him or other top-notch blue liners on clubs that fall out of playoff contention.

The point to remember as the deadline nears is that Tampa Bay has the talent for the future, but the future isn't ready yet nor is it going to push TB over the top now. That's not suggesting to forget the long-term sustainability in favor of the moment, it's saying a filler-asset that helps boosts thenow but lasts only another full season or two is what to look for.