According to Bob McKenzie, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is likely feeling the pressure to get his team back into a playoff position, and no holds are barred (except for one named Jonathan Drouin) in getting the lineup up to snuff.
Coach Jon Cooper habitually likes to play his defensemen according to handedness, which is why Andrej Sustr has a regular spot in the Lightning lineup while Mark Barberio was placed on waivers two seasons ago. Is Cooper (like the rest of the league) hungry for another right-handed defenseman? Yes he is. But whom?
Who are Tampa’s most likely trade targets?
GeoFitz: You have to think that Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues would be high up Steve Yzerman’s list. The biggest struggle will be finding salary cap room. While the Lightning have some leeway with the Long Term Injured Reserve cap space from Steven Stamkos’ injury, that becomes problematic if he returns prior to the end of the regular season. If the Lightning could pull off a trade that included Valtteri Filppula for Shattenkirk, it would kill a few birds with one stone.
It would give the Lightning the righthanded defenseman in the top 4 they so desperately need. It would be selling high on Filppula’s resurgence this season. It would also cut some cap room for next season. The Lightning could conceivably retain some salary on Filppula if it helped St. Louis make the deal. The offsetting salaries would help make it work for both teams, with St. Louis in need of some center help. In addition, trading Filppula would open a spot on the protected list for the expansion draft this summer.
The other intriguing name to consider is Dougie Hamilton from the Calgary Flames. Again, the Lightning would need to move some salary to make it work. However, it would be a solution for the near term as well as the long term as he could slot in as the second pair right-handed defenseman behind Anton Stralman. If Stralman begins to slow down, he could even end up as a partner for Victor Hedman at the top of the depth chart.
JustinG.: Shattenkirk’s name is probably circled with little hearts drawn around it in Mr. Yzerman’s Big TrapperKeeper of Trades. Unfortunately, the Blues know they have the No. 1 defender on the market and will want a kings ransom for him. I doubt Mr. Yzerman is rarely in the mood to overpay for a short-term rental.
The New York Islanders are currently occupying the last spot in the standings and are a bit of a mess as a franchise. Could Mr. Yzerman swoop in and pick up one of their blueliners? Johnny Boychuck would slide in nicely as a right-handed defender, but that contract (5 1⁄2 years at $6 million is brutal) is a non-starter.
Thomas Hickey is under contract for the next year and a half for only $2.2 million. That’s not bad. While he isn’t going to light the world on fire, he also isn’t going to burn the building down. His possession stats have regressed a bit the last couple of years, but on the Lightning he would be getting top-4 minutes from the get go and Tampa Bay wouldn’t have to mortgage the future to get him.
Waffleboardsave: If we want to look at the Islanders’ defensemen, Travis Hamonic seems the most realistic for the Isles to want to trade since he’s been part of the trade speculation since last year (though last year was because he requested a trade due to personal reasons; now it’s that he’s trade bait). Hamonic plays with a physical edge and is a monster at blocking shots. But he also is a painful -14 and is day-to-day with an injury. So, proceed with risk. He’s signed through 2020 at a $3.875 cap hit and is 26.
Who is most likely to be traded?
GeoFitz: The easy answers are Filppula and Ben Bishop. Brian Boyle is also a fair name to throw in there as an unrestricted free agent this summer. But I think the most tradable asset that Yzerman has to work with is Tyler Johnson.
With the emergence of Brayden Point so quickly, as well as the coming of Vladislav Namestnikov and Matthew Peca down the middle, the Lightning can look ahead and see that their center depth is healthy for the next few years. Peca has shown in a short audition that he can be ready to produce full time as a third-line center as soon as next season. Point and Namestnikov could battle it out for the second line center spot behind Stamkos, with the loser likely playing on the wing or third line. The sting of losing both Johnson and Filppula next season doesn’t feel so bad when you look at it through that lens.
I would only want to give up Johnson though if it was for a long term solution on defense such as the aforementioned Hamilton. If the Lightning could somehow work out a trade to Calgary for Johnson and Erik Condra, you’re not far off from being able to fit in Hamilton’s salary this season even when Stamkos comes back from injury. With four seasons left after this year at $5.75 million, and a history of putting up a half-point a game the past two and a half seasons, he would be well worth letting go of Johnson to acquire.
JustinG.: In order:
Who is most likely to be kept?
Acha: Jonathan Drouin is obviously off the table for any deals, but I’d hazard a guess that Yzerman wouldn’t want to trade away Vasilevskiy or Kucherov either. All three of these players are on fantastically affordable deals, and Yzerman knows that they hold the keys to the future of the franchise. Would he trade away the future of the Lightning for a better grasp on this season? It seems unlikely. Knowing the way Yzerman works, he is always patient, and never quick to the draw when it comes to trading away valuable assets. His personnel have been reliable for the past two seasons — why would he make sudden moves that barter the Lightning’s future for paper gains in a season that is likely to go downhill anyway?
GeoFitz: Stamkos, Kucherov, Drouin, Hedman, Stralman, and Vasilevskiy are the only players I would classify as untouchables. Anyone else should be open to negotiation. The one player not on that list though that I think is close is Palat. The simple fact is that there are not many players that fit the same kind of mold as him in the pipeline that could fill a top six role. A top line of Palat with Stamkos and Drouin would be a formidable trio. I also think Point would be high on the not for sale list because of his cheap price over the next two seasons. The fact that he’s made it to the NHL at 20 years old without an AHL stint is an obvious sign of what the front office thinks of him and his future.
The untradeables are likely Garrison, Coburn, and Callahan. Filppula would be on this list if his production looked more like last seasons. However, he has picked it up a lot this season and made himself more attractive, especially if the Lightning were to retain $1-$2 million in salary which would be reasonable in the right situation.
JustinG: I have to agree with the boss. I don’t see Drouin going anywhere and it would take a Godfather offer to pry Kucherov out of their hands. It should go without saying that Stamkos isn’t going anywhere. Callahan is probably off the table because of his health and his contract.
Would Mr. Yzerman entertain a Brayden Point trade in the vein of the “Conacher for Bishop” deal like he did in 2013? (/ducks a hockey puck thrown by Saima) Possibly, but like in the case of Kucherov it would have to be a pretty good deal for him to listen.
Waffleboardsave: Let’s get one thing clear. Even though everyone but a handful is “fair game” it’s not like this game is going to be blown up. I think making one move is mandatory, two is likely and three if we’re lucky. Because Yzerman reiterates that the trade market is difficult, I think it’s more likely to see a package or group of players or even a third team being involved rather than one team and one player and/or picks. But the biggest trade bait is Johnson. The player that I’d like to see moved out is Filppula (please, oh please) and Sustr. And I don’t know what you do with Bishop.