Before game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I was listening to a local radio show on my way to lunch. The host asked "Who won the Martin St. Louis - Ryan Callahan trade?" With the conversation also turning towards St. Louis’ actions leading up to the trade, the callers flooded in to share their opinions. I listened with great interest to see what the average fan thought about the trade. As for opinions on St. Louis, it was mostly negative, but a few callers expressed admiration for what St. Louis had previously done. But the majority of comments on the trade focused around a few things; Callahan is younger and a different type of player and Callahan was influential in landing Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle during 2014 free agency..
While both of those points are really good, the ripples from the trade go far beyond that. I’m more than happy to have Boyle, Stralman, and Callahan in the mix over the course of their contracts. I’m also happy with the assets and some other events that likely were impacted by the trade.
Original Trade Agreement and Callahan Extension
In the trade, the Lightning gave up St. Louis (who had a full seaon left on his contract at the time) and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2015 that triggered when Callahan signed his contract extension with the Lightning. A 2nd round pick should generally have a pretty good chance of playing in the NHL and contributing. All-in-all, this is not a lot in terms of assets to give up, especially in comparison to what came back.
In return, the Lightning got Callahan, a conditional 2014 2nd round pick that turned into a 1st round pick when the Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014, a 2015 1st round pick, and a conditional 7th round pick that was triggered by Callahan's re-signing.
After the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Finals, the condition on the 2014 2nd round pick went into effect and it became a 1st round pick for the Lightning. This gave them two 1st round picks; their original 19th overall pick and the 28th overall pick. There was a lot of speculation leading up to the draft of what the Lightning would do. There was a definite need on defense and a general need to continue to restock the cupboard for the organization considering the number of prospect graduations that occurred during the 2013-14 season.
Tampa Bay ended up selecting Anthony DeAngelo with their own pick and traded the Rangers pick to the Islanders for two 2nd rounds choices, #35 and #57. The Lightning had previously traded their second round pick to the Canucks in the Jason Garrison trade earlier that day. Ultimately, they moved back 7 spots in the 2nd round and gained another 2nd. With those selections they chose Czech defenseman Dominik Masin (pronounced Machine) and American defenseman Johnathan MacLeod.
By moving back, the team missed on the opportunity to pick Joshua Ho-Sang, Adrian Kempe, John Quenneville, Brendan Lemieux, Jayce Hawryluk, Ivan Barbashev, and Mason McDonald. While all are good prospects, none of them were considered can’t-miss prospects. With hindsight being what it is, I would've liked to have Barbashev and he was the player out of that group that absolutely tore up his league this past season. Instead, the Lightning got the next defenseman to come off the board.
The easiest comparison to make for Masin is a left-handed Radko Gudas that hits a little harder and doesn’t handle the puck quite as well. He projects as a thumping third pair defenseman. He spent this past season in the OHL playing for the Peterborough Petes even though he was eligible to play in the AHL due to being drafted out of a European league. Going to the OHL was the best course for his development. He would have gotten very spare minutes in an already crowded blueline in Syracuse. Instead, he got top pair minutes for the Petes and was able to work on his overall game. His season was cut short when he suffered a "broken face." That is, he had facial fractures and a broken collarbone from having a rough meeting with the boards. I expect that he’ll go back to the Petes for another year before making the full time jump to pro hockey with Syracuse in 2016-17.
Johnathan MacLeod is a good sized right-handed defenseman. More of a stay at home player, a lot of questions for him surrounded his between-the-ears skills. He just wrapped up his freshman season playing at Boston University with Jack Eichel. He’s in a good situation with a competitive team and a good coaching staff. Ultimately, the organization has to hope that his mental skills will catch up to his physical skills. He’s got the potential to be a number four or five defenseman that can give you solid minutes though more likely will end up solidly as a third pair guy if he makes it.
Going into the season, the club had two 1st round picks coming up in 2015 to play with and had no 2nd round selection as it had gone to the Rangers. At the trade deadline in March, there was clearly a need for another defenseman to shore up the blueline. A lot of fans focused on a desire for a right handed offensive defenseman. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the players that fit that description that were traded were worth the 1st round picks that other teams gave up to acquire them (such as Cody Franson or Keith Yandle).
Instead, Yzerman went off the grid and traded for Braydon Coburn, giving up Radko Gudas, Tampa Bay's own 1st round pick, and a 3rd rounder in 2015. Plentyt of fans were sad to see the immensely likeable Gudas go; a character to both cheer for and depend on to lay a big hit. Gudas' season had been interrupted by a knee injury that required surgery adding to the necessityt o bolster the defense. Having that additional 1st round pick allowed Yzerman to make the trade, knowing he had another 1st round pick. The 3rd round pick given up was an extra pick coming from the Anaheim Ducks in the Eric Brewer trade.
Another factor in the Coburn deal was the trade of Brett Connolly to the Bruins at the same time, with Tampa Bay getting two 2nd round picks in return. That trade eased the blow of losing a 1st and a 3rd for Coburn.
2015 Draft And Beyond
The last portion still to be seen will be what the Lightning do with their 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 draft and what they eventually do with the other assets they’ve acquired. The ripples of the Martin St. Louis trade will continue in the Lightning organization for years, if not decades. A trade now can net the asset that’s used in a trade five years from now that nets another asset that’s used in a blockbuster in another five years. While I dislike how Marty pushed his way out and left the team in the middle of a playoff run, I will say "Thank You" to Marty. You helped the team avoid a messy situation when your contract was up after you had slowed down and you gave the team assets that will help it into the future.