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Speculating on boosting the Lightning defense by way of the Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks could make for an intriguing trade partner for Steve Yzerman as he looks for defensive skill to bolster the blue line

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the current Tampa Bay Lightning roster you may conclude that the biggest need for the club is someone to shore up the blue line. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman have been great up top and Andrej Sustr has made great strides (and not just because he's tall) this season. Jason Garrison has had a little bit of a down year while Braydon Coburn has been about what you'd expect offense-wise. Matt Carle's struggles have been well documented while Nikita Nesterov has been erratic as sixth defenseman.

A top four, right handed defenseman would help solidify the blue line and make it stronger top to bottom while also improving depth. Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues has been an often mentioned name and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him slot into Tampa Bay's top four next to Jason Garrison or at the point on the power play. However, taking a peek further west to the Anaheim Ducks shows a certain amount of young defensive talent that might be available at the right price.

Sami Vatanen

At 24 years old, the Finnish defenseman has become established pretty well in his NHL career. He's had a 0.49 point-per-game average so far in his brief (171 game) NHL career, plus 21 playoff games. He is a right handed shot and has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time per game over the past two seasons. His possession stats leave something to be desired. There would have to be hope that moving into the Bolts system would improve his performance in that area. He is an offensive defenseman and as a right hander, would slot in well next to Jason Garrison.

Vatanen is currently on a deal that is paying him $1,262,500 and he will be a restricted free agent this summer. With his successes over the past several seasons, he's in for a pay raise and that is one of the biggest reasons for the Ducks to attempt to move him now or in the off-season.

Hampus Lindholm

Drafted #6 overall in the 2012 NHL draft, this 22 year old Swede provides a different look from Sami Vatanen. He's a left hander in his third full season in the NHL. He had 30 points in his rookie NHL season (2013-14) and 34 points last season (2014-15). Currently Lindholm sits at 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 47 games played. Additionally in his first two seasons he was a combined plus-54, but has been a minus-6 this season. At 0.37 PPG, Lindholm has a little less of an offensive impact than Vatanen, but is a better defensive-defenseman. He has seen his ice time gradually climb going from 19:26 to 21:46 to 22:25.  Despite his dip in his offensive performance this season, overall he is still an up and coming defenseman.

Like Vatanen, Lindholm is also currently affordable as he finishes out his entry level contract with a cap hit just under $895,000 plus bonuses. He'll be a restricted free agent this summer as well and will be due for a raise.

Cam Fowler

Fowler seems like the outlier in this group and perhaps the least likely player to be speculated upon. The 2010 1st round draft choice has a $4 million contract running through 2017-18. He's 24 years old and a left hander, but has significantly more experience with over 400 regular season and playoff games under his belt. Additionally, he participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics for Team USA in Sochi. While it looks like his point totals are down this season (3 goals, 9 assists for 12 points), he's actually right in line with his 0.43 PPG pace from his total NHL career.

What the Ducks want

On the surface, this seems like a difficult question to answer. Anaheim is in third place in the Pacific Division but they have the Coyotes and Canucks nipping at their heels. With the strength of the Central Division, it's necessary to take that third place spot for the Ducks to make the playoffs. It's also been reported that the Ducks are under an internal budget that is also cause for them to be contract conscious. They could conceivably ask for Jonathan Drouin to give them a cheap, controllable talent to help out their struggling offense.

Beyond that, the Ducks could ask about Alex Killorn as a winger that could move up and down the lineup for them though he's nearing RFA status and due for a raise this summer. Anaheim does have five forwards who are looming unrestricted free agents including David Perron whose roster spot Killorn could fill.

Lightning forward Jonathan Marchessault is a potential minor piece to add into a trade, aiding the Ducks with depth scoring for the rest of the season. It's hard to see any other Lightning forwards that would make sense in a prospective deal between the two clubs.

The Ducks are without a 2nd round pick in the 2016 NHL draft and Tampa Bay holds an extra 2nd from Boston. That could be a piece of the puzzle, but wouldn't likely be enough to get a deal done by itself and a 1st round pick may be required if the Lightning weren't sending a roster player back in the deal.

This seems like a hard trade to make. When trading between two contending teams, it's often difficult to match up in a way that both clubs deal from a position of strength to bolster a position of weakness. The Lightning has limited options from its forward ranks that are usable in making a deal work with a budget-restrained club. However, if the Ducks start sinking over the next few games before the trade deadline of February 29, it will be easier to use a prospect or a draft pick to pull in what the Lightning need to help their own chances.

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