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The Lightning did nothing at the trade deadline and that’s ok

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The Lightning will dance with who brung them.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t do anything at the trade deadline this year, which makes sense because they have been one of the best teams in the NHL all season. They have unique depth. They have too many NHL forwards to get everyone minutes. They have the same problem but to a lesser extent on the blueline. The team didn’t need to add anything. I’m sure they did their due diligence checking on players who might help but they obviously didn’t find anything they liked.

Joe Smith gave the official news that they hadn’t made a move around 3:15 ET.

The possibilities

The only players the Lightning were ever connected to specifically were Wayne Simmonds and Micheal Ferland, but that was months before the deadline. Since that time, Adam Erne and Mathieu Joseph have been good enough to push Ryan Callahan out of the lineup. A couple reports early in the season also suggested the team was looking for help on the right side of defense. But that was before Erik Cernak emerged as a legitimate top-four defender in his rookie season.

Simmonds was the name most frequently connected to the Bolts. He eventually went to Nashville for Ryan Hartman and a 2020 fourth-round pick that becomes a third if the Predators wins a playoff series this season, which is likely. That would have been an easy offer to beat so the Lightning couldn’t have been that interested.

In terms of other names that arose in conversation, Ferland wasn’t traded and will stay in Carolina. Adam McQuaid, a right-handed defender from the Rangers, went to Columbus for a fourth and a seventh-round pick. Cody Ceci’s never-ending status of being loosely linked to Tampa dissipated into nothing once more. He remained in Ottawa where they will presumably attempt to ice an NHL caliber hockey team at some point in the distant future.

The Lightning were never rumored to be in on the big names. Matt Duchene went to Columbus who have decided that draft picks are for suckers. We’ll see how that looks for them in a few years. Mark Stone went to Vegas where he will experience an incredible improvement in quality of teammates and quality of life in general. Artemi Panarin stayed in Columbus because again, draft picks are for suckers.

The reality

For the Bolts, this was the best reasonable outcome. Sure it would have been great for them to land one of the big fish and become a juggernaut. It also would have been fun to fleece another term for a marginal gain. But the most likely two outcomes were always either this or overpaying for duplicative depth. And if I had the choice between those two, I’d obviously choose the one we got.

With the deadline passed, focus shifts to the remainder of the season. After tonight’s match-up with the Kings, the Lightning will have exactly 20 games to play. In those 20 games, they need to settle on their forward group. They need to decide which six defenders are going to get the minutes in the postseason. But mostly, they need to keep playing well and stay healthy.

The front office, coaches, and players have done everything needed to put themselves in the best possible position to make a deep playoff run this season. And that includes not making any moves in the spending spree at the deadline. Now we’ll see what the results will be.