The Tampa Bay Lightning announced a trade, sending defenseman Braydon Coburn, center Cedric Paquette, and a 2022 second round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the rights to forward Marian Gaborik and goaltender Anders Nilsson. Neither Gaborik or Nilsson will play this season and will be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve.
What we’re giving up
Braydon Coburn was originally acquired by the Lighting at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas and a first and third-round draft pick. Coburn has 964 career NHL games and played 350 of those games with the Lightning. For the Lightning, he has produce 12 goals and 66 points over parts of six seasons. At 34 years old, Coburn was at the bottom of the Lightning’s blue line depth chart and unlikely to see much play. He had a No Trade Clause in his contract and so had to agree to this trade.
Cedric Paquette was originally a fourth-round pick in 2012 by the Lightning out of the QMJHL. He made an impact in his first season in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and got a cup of coffee at the end of the 2013-14 season, and then played in all four playoff games. He started the next season in the AHL, but was soon called up and has been in the NHL ever since. In 277 career NHL games, he has contributed 47 goals and 85 points while primarily playing on the fourth line.
What we’re getting
Gaborik has not played in the NHL since the 2017-18 season. Back injuries have kept him out the past two seasons and led to his retirement, though he has spent that time on Long Term Injured Reserve instead of being officially retired. Gaborik has one year remaining on his contract with a $4.875 million cap hit, but is only owed $3,075,000 in actual salary.
Nilsson played 20 games last season for the Senators with a .908 SV% and a 9-9-2 record. Nilsson has $2.6 million and one year remaining on his contract. He suffered a concussion in December 2019 and is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms which will keep him from playing this season.
The trade leaves the Lightning with six healthy defensemen on the roster, though prospect defenseman Cal Foote has seemed poised to make the jump and now could be paired up with Mikhail Sergachev on the third pair for the Lightning with Jan Rutta resuming his spot next to Victor Hedman while Luke Schenn is scratched. The move of Paquette is also one I’ve speculated could happen for a while. Mitchell Stephens has proven himself more than capable of handling the fourth line center role, can win faceoffs, and is a strong penalty killer. His presence on the roster made Paquette expendable.
Now with those facts out of the way, let’s get on to the cap implications. The Lightning have already been busy over the past few weeks. The team wrapped up their restricted free agent signings, as well as signing a few other vets to fill out the roster (listed below for reference). The team also learned that Nikita Kucherov had an ailing hip and will undergo surgery, meaning he will miss the entire regular season. If the surgery and recovery is similar to what Brayden Point went through, then it would mean a five-month recovery time, which would potentially put him back on the ice around the time the playoffs start. The Lightning placed Kucherov on Off-Season LTIR, which then allowed the team to sign Anthony Cirelli while exceeding the normal 10% over the cap limit during the offseason.
- Anthony Cirelli, 3 years, $4.8 million cap hit
- Mitchell Stephens, 2 years, $737,500 cap hit
- Mathieu Joseph, 2 years, $737,500 cap hit
- Alexander Volkov, 1 year, $700,000 cap hit
- Mikhail Sergachev, 3 years, $4.8 million cap hit
- Erik Cernak, 3 years, $2.95 million cap hit
- Jan Rutta, 2 years, $1.3 million cap hit
- Luke Schenn, 1 year, $800,000 cap hit
Prior to this trade, the Lightning were sitting in a position where they would need to trade somewhere around $2.5 million (plus whatever amount was required for their replacements on the roster) in cap hit to make room, even with Kucherov being on LTIR. This move has done that, and more, by giving the Lightning more wiggle room. Coburn and Paquette had a combined $3.35 million cap hit. The savings by trading away both isn’t as much as you’d think since they would need to be replaced with a couple of players that cost between $1.4 and $1.65 million in cap hit.
But there’s a missing part
The only part that I’m struggling to understand at the moment is that if the Lightning put together a roster of 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders, the team would still be over the cap by $466,666. This may mean that there’s still another move out there to be made, but I’m not sure what that move might be.
There’s no obvious candidate that stands out to me, unless the Lightning end up following through on a trade of Tyler Johnson or seek to trade someone else like Alex Killorn. That would create more flexibility for the Lightning to add at the trade deadline and deal with any injuries that come up, but that would also weaken the roster in the meantime, as well as potentially costing more assets on top of the 2022 second-round pick the Lightning have already moved in this trade.
We’ll have to see what comes next, but it’s very possible that we haven’t seen the last move by the Lightning before training camp and the NHL season opens up. Until that move is made, I’ll be continuing to study the situation from all sides. There’s a lot of complications here because of the use of LTIR. One thing is clear though, with three players on LTIR, the Lightning have reached their limit in that realm and cannot place another player on LTIR unless one of the three is removed, which seems unlikely.