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Balancing the present with the future is Steve Yzerman’s biggest challenge

Yzerman has built for the future, now he has to weigh the costs of improving the present.

Steve Yzerman (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty

The All-Star Game festivities have come and gone from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s home at Amalie Arena. Fans from the area got to meet and see some of the greatest hockey players in the game today. Included among those two are Ottawa Senators defenseman (and friend of Victor Hedman) Erik Karlsson and New York Islanders center (and friend of Steven Stamkos) John Tavares.

Both players have been at the center of trade rumors and speculation for awhile now, Tavares because of his impending status as an unrestricted free agent and Karlsson because of comments that he wants to get paid in his next contract in a year and a half.

As fans, it’s hard to not get swept into the visions of a Karlsson or a Tavares joining the Lightning. It’s easy to see one of them in Bolts’ blue and being a star and a huge impact on a potential Stanley Cup winning team. For Steve Yzerman, those visions also must be very alluring as well.

But for Yzerman, his biggest challenge coming up to this season’s trade deadline, and trade deadlines in the future, is the balance between today and tomorrow. Up until now, his vision has been clear: build a team and organization that competes for Stanley Cups year after year.

He’s gotten to that point, last year’s aberration of a season excepted. This team has gone to a Stanley Cup Finals. They’ve been one game away from two other Stanley Cup Finals since Yzerman took over. They have a core of Stamkos, Kucherov, Point, Hedman, Sergachev, and Vasilevskiy that are in their primes and will still be in their primes for at least the next few years.

Around that core, there is a solid supporting cast in Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Anton Stralman, and Jake Dotchin.

Since taking over the reins of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yzerman has had a couple opportunities to add to a contending team. And it’s rather intriguing to see how in most of those trades he’s had an eye not only for the present team, but also for the future of the team.

In 2010-11, Yzerman traded Ty Wishart for goaltender Dwayne Roloson. In that trade, Yzerman gave up very little, a throw-in piece from the Dan Boyle trade made prior to Yzerman’s arrival, and picked up a goaltender that got the team to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2013-14, Yzerman traded away a star in Martin St. Louis. He got back Ryan Callahan who was a downgrade in the immediate term, but had potential to be a big part of the team into the future. Plus, Yzerman got what ended up being two first round picks and Daniel Walcott for the cost of St. Louis and a second round pick. Yzerman turned both of the first round picks into three second round picks and a third round pick. A trade that hurt the team slightly in the now, but greatly helped the team into the future.

In 2014-15, Yzerman traded Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly, a first round pick, and a third round pick for Braydon Coburn and two second round picks. Giving up on Gudas at the time felt like a big blow, while Connolly’s development had stalled out and he never lived up to his billing as a draft prospect. Yzerman had an extra first round pick from the St. Louis trade and also softened the blow by moving on from Connolly.

In Coburn, he picked up a solid, third-pairing defenseman with an extra year remaining. Again thinking to the future as well as the now, Coburn helped both, especially after being re-signed to a three year contract. The extra picks even further provided for team growth into the future.

With the 2015-16 run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Yzerman stood pat. The cost of the rentals on the market were not worth it. Andrew Ladd was traded with two other players for a good prospect (Marko Dano) and a first round pick with a conditional third that was not met. And really, to be honest, this team was really good and the players available on the market were not great either especially at the prices they came at.

This was again an example of Yzerman looking to the future, not being willing to give up too many assets for players that weren’t going to be worth that investment.

So now, with the Lightning on top of the NHL and playing some of the best hockey at any time in the Yzerman era, he’s left with a choice: go for it or stick to the plan.

What’s the right choice? I honestly don’t know and I don’t think I’d like to be sitting in Yzerman’s place. There’s the argument that with all of these players in their prime, they’re never going to be better and trading away a couple first round picks and a high-end prospect and an NHL roster player for Karlsson is the right thing to do to win it now and go for it again next year.

The other side of the argument is that by not buying in on Karlsson, the Lightning have a bit of a lower chance to win the Stanley Cup this year and next, but will extend their chances for longer.

Ultimately, you have to be in the playoffs to win it. The Detroit Red Wings did that for years. But then we saw what happened to their farm system and how they slowly degraded away until their long playoff streak ended with them never really being serious contenders in the past 3-5 years.

So for Yzerman, he’ll have to balance the present with the future yet again as he makes a decision of if this is the right time to sacrifice a little bit of that future to strengthen his team now.

What do you think he should do?


Should Yzerman stay the course in developing the future or go for it now?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Sell the farm, let’s go for it right now.
    (12 votes)
  • 74%
    Sell a little piece of the farm, but let’s not get too crazy.
    (181 votes)
  • 20%
    This team is perfect and we don’t need any changes right now to contend for a Cup.
    (50 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now