According to Jason Botchford of the The Province who was appearing on a TSN 1040 radio show, the Tampa Bay Lightning have contacted the Vancouver Canucks about trading for right handed defender Chris Tanev. The Bolts are rumored to be fishing with picks and either Slater Koekkoek or Jake Dotchin as bait. That would be quite a one-sided deal in favor of GM Steve Yzerman but negotiations have to start somewhere.
If you want to hear the audio, it starts here at around 18:00. This report aligns with Elliotte Friedman reporting earlier this month that the Lightning are still looking for a right handed defender.
It feels like this is a persistent area of need in Tampa. Last off-season, they tried to address it with Dan Girardi and initially it seemed like that might be a feasible short-term fix. But when Jake Dotchin fell out of favor with the coaching staff, the need re-surfaced. Mikhail Sergachev played on the right side late in the year and in the playoffs and was effective. But this news suggests that the team would prefer him back on his natural left side.
The fact the team has targeted Tanev is encouraging. He’s been among the best defenders in the NHL in shot suppression over his career. He doesn’t offer much offensively but the Lightning have plenty of offense on the left side from Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Sergachev. They need another defensive minded player who can help fill the void being left by Anton Stralman as he ages.
The team likely envisioned Girardi helping fill that role but he needs to be playing limited minutes at this point in his career. Ideally, on the third pairing with some second unit penalty killing time. A player like Tanev would slot in on the second pair give the Lightning a solid right side.
To understand just how good of a defender Tanev is, let’s look at his career heatmap using some key stats from Corsica. As always, blue is good and orange is bad.
Tanev is a unique player in how specifically focused his skill set is. He is an outstanding defender who offers hardly any offense. In the past, he has shown more offensive impact than in recent years and that might return if he was traded to a better team than the one he’s on in Vancouver. But even if his offense doesn’t rebound, it doesn’t matter. His defensive impacts are so substantial that he’s a net positive impact player regardless of what he does on offense.
In addition to being a good fit, Tanev is on a good contract. He’ll make $4.45 million for two more seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent according to CapFriendly. That’s a great deal for a player of his caliber and inexpensive enough that he could fit under the cap even with the Lightning’s big free agency summer in 2019.
The price reported by Botchford is a lowball offer and I can’t see even Jim Benning agreeing to a deal like that. So this could all be nothing or it could be the start of a negotiation between the two teams. At the least, this is evidence that the Lightning are indeed looking to upgrade at right defense and are shopping both Dotchin and Koekkoek.
If anything is going to get done involving draft picks, it seems likely it would happen this week before or at the draft. Otherwise, the teams would be discussing 2020 draft picks and that would remove much of the urgency to complete a deal.
Last year around this time, we started hearing rumblings that the Lighning were interested in Girardi and the fan base...didn’t take that news very well. Trading for Tanev would elicit the opposite reaction. He’s a perfect fit for this roster. At a minimum, the Lighnting are on the right track pursuing a player like Tanev and that’s an encouraging sign for this summer.