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Revisiting the Martin St. Louis trade and its impact on the Lightning

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It’s been five years and the influence on the Lightning continues.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the summer following the 2014-15 NHL season, I wrote about the Martin St. Louis trade and it’s effect on the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise. At that point, the Lightning had only used one of the three picks the they acquired in the trade with the New York Rangers and had re-signed Ryan Callahan. Now, we’ve finally started to see the fruits of the trade in the NHL beyond just Callahan’s impact.

Ryan Callahan

Callahan started off pretty hot with the Lightning. When he came over in 2013-14, he scored six goals and 11 points in 20 games. He was held scoreless in the playoffs as the Lightning were swept by the Montreal Canadiens. He then re-signed for six years at a cap hit, and term, that even at the time I thought would be problematic.

His first full season with the Lightning was a success. He played a lot with Steven Stamkos and played on the first power play unit. He scored 24 goals, the second highest total of his career, and 54 points matching his career high. He faded a bit in the playoffs though, as Stamkos also had his struggles, and only scored two goals and eight points in 25 playoff games.

The next season though, he trailed off with just 10 goals and 28 points in 73 games. A hip injury slowed him down and would eventually lead to him having surgery to repair the damage. Unfortunately, the surgery was not a complete success and he underwent a second surgery after playing just 18 games in 2016-17.

Over the past couple seasons, Callahan was reduced to a fourth line role and put up 18 and 17 points over 67 and 52 games while dealing with a separated shoulder and back issues. The back issues ultimately lead to a recommendation by his doctors to stop playing hockey. He’ll spend this season on LTIR and then be able to officially retire.

Impact

Callahan’s impact was certainly felt in his time with the Lightning in more ways than one. He wore an A as an Alternate Captain throughout his time with the Lightning. He was a heart and soul player that gave everything he had on the ice. The team definitely missed him in the locker room during 2016-17.

His cap hit also had an impact, a generally negative one. The last three years, the Lightning have had to devote a large part of their salary cap expenditures to a fourth liner. While the Lightning were looking to trade his contract this summer, and that would have likely had the impact of assets going out with him to make the trade, ultimately, his injury retirement led the team to being forced into trading J.T. Miller to make some salary cap room.

2014 First Round Pick

The Lightning went into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with two first round picks. With their own pick at 19th overall, the Lightning selected Anthony DeAngelo. That turned out to be a bit of a busted pick, but the Lightning got some value by trading him for a second round pick which they used on Libor Hajek and then traded Hajek to the New York Rangers in the J.T. Miller/Ryan McDonagh deal.

With the Rangers’ 28th overall pick, the Lightning traded it to the New York Islanders for two second round picks. The Islanders selected Joshua Ho-Sang who has struggled to make it in the NHL with the Islanders. The Lightning’s next pick came at 35th overall when they selected defenseman Dominik Masin. If the Lightning had kept the pick instead of trading it, the best pick they might have made was Adrian Kempe, but he hasn’t been a high performing player either.

With the other pick the Lightning got from the Rangers, 57th overall, they selected defenseman John MacLeod. MacLeod was an NCAA defenseman. His development stagnated in his four years at Boston University and the Lightning did not sign him to an entry level contract. He spent last season playing in the ECHL.

Impact

Ultimately, the Lightning ended up with a depth defenseman in Masin. Masin has had three full years in the AHL and has not made it to the NHL yet. He brings some value defensively, but his offensive skills are questionable. He may make it to the NHL at some point as a 6th or 7th defenseman, but he’s no longer considered to be the borderline top-four defenseman he was projected to be when he was drafted.

2015 First Round Pick

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft was a little different from the previous draft. The Lightning traded away their own first round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Braydon Coburn deal. They were able to do so because they traded Brett Connolly for two second round picks and still had the Rangers first round pick, which was again 28th overall.

Once again, the Lightning traded out of the pick with the New York Islanders. This time they got the 33rd overall pick in the second round and 72nd overall pick in the third round. With the 28th pick, the Islanders selected Anthony Beauvillier. He is pretty clearly the best player drafted between the 28th and 32nd pick before the Lightning’s selection at 33rd overall.

With the 33rd overall pick, the Lightning took center Mitchell Stephens. Stephens was viewed as being a “Ryan Callahan Lite” when he was drafted. He has done well though to stick at center in the AHL when most expected he would shift over to the wing as a professional. A broken foot slowed him down after being drafted, but he still produced at a decent clip in the OHL. Since then, he’s turned into one of the better centers for the Syracuse Crunch. He’s also shown enough offensively and defensively to start getting a look at the NHL roster in Tampa. The biggest missed opportunity here for the Lightning is that they could have selected the good Sebastian Aho or Brandon Carlo.

With the 72nd overall pick, the Lightning made a solid hit. They took a chance on forward Anthony Cirelli. At the time, Cirelli was a bottom six forward for the OHL and Memorial Cup Champion Oshawa Generals. Betting on increased production when he was set to take on a bigger role the next year, the Lightning took him.

Their bet proved to work out. He increased his production from 36 points in 68 games to 59 points in 62 games. He picked that up even further with 64 points in 51 OHL games in 2016-17. He also recorded seven points in seven games at the U20 World Junior Championships winning a Silver Medal with Team Canada.

Cirelli made it to the NHL for the last 18 games of the 2017-18 NHL season and then played in all 17 playoff games after a solid AHL rookie campaign. Cirelli made the team once again last year and showed himself to be a high-end third line center putting up 19 goals and 39 points in 82 games as he displayed a hard working, blue collar game. His shorthanded contributions were also invaluable.

Impact

This one certainly has already had more of an impact than the 2014 first round draft pick. Cirelli already has 50 points in 100 games played in the NHL. He’s cemented himself as the Lightning’s third line center for the foreseeable future and a leader on the penalty kill. Stephens hasn’t made it to the NHL yet, but every indication last training camp was that he was in the running. He should be in the running once again this coming season to take a fourth line spot and perhaps supplant Cedric Paquette as the fourth line center either now or in the near future.

2015 Seventh Round Pick

The most minor part of the Lightning’s trade with the Rangers. This was a conditional pick that transferred when Ryan Callahan re-signed with a second round draft pick going back to the New York Rangers. The Lightning ended up trading this pick back to the Rangers just prior to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft for the rights to Daniel Walcott.

Walcott isn’t much of an NHL prospect any more. However, he is a well loved player for the Syracuse Crunch. He came up through juniors as a defenseman, but has spent more time as a forward for the Crunch in the AHL. He throws his body around harder than you’d expect for a 5’11”, 174 pound player.

His work ethic has helped him to work through multiple injuries this past season that limited him to just five games with the Crunch. While he is still working his way back from his second injury, the Lightning have kept Walcott around for another year with a fairly cheap two-way contract. Some believe that he could eventually be the Captain for the Crunch if he sticks around with the team past this season.

Conclusions

For the moment, the biggest impact for the Lightning from this trade seems to be from Callahan’s contributions and from Anthony Cirelli. Mitchell Stephens still has an opportunity to be an NHLer, though his impact is likely less than that of Cirelli. The Lightning didn’t get the most out of the compensation as they could have, but the draft can be a crapshoot at times with so many other factors and variables that are out of the team’s control that can torpedo a player’s development.