Darren Dreger is reporting that the Lightning have traded for New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman. Coleman is a defensive specialist who grades out as one of the best players in the league in that area. He hasn’t shown much scoring to this point in his NHL career with 22 goals and 36 points last season being his career high. He’s made his name being a shutdown winger and an asset on the penalty kill.
Coleman is 28 years old and in his fourth full professional season. He was drafted in the third round by the Devils in 2011 but took the long route the NHL playing four seasons in the NCAA and most of two seasons in the AHL before making his NHL debut toward the end of the 2016-17 season. He’s stuck in the NHL since his debut.
The package going back to New Jersey is an expensive one. The Lightning sent last year’s first round pick Nolan Foote and the first round pick they acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for J.T. Miller back to the Devils. Foote is having an excellent year with 33 points in 26 games for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. The first round pick is lottery protected this season meaning that if the Canucks miss the playoffs, the pick would transfer to 2021.
Hearing a substantial package going the other way. Nolan Foote and VAN’s first-round pick. https://t.co/P53J6oDlSM— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 17, 2020
The Lightning are likely betting the Canucks will in fact make the playoffs and banking on this pick being in the 20s because the risk associated with packaging an unprotected first rounder in 2021 with a top tier prospect in Foote is high.
This a big time all in move by the Lightning front office to stack the deck as much as possible for this season. The cap crunch gets very real this summer with Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev both needing new contracts. The Bolts were almost certain to have to move players this summer to compensate for that and Coleman could help there. He’s under contract for one more season after this at $1.8 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022.
Once Coleman arrives on the ice with the team, possibly in time for tomorrow night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, we’ll have a better idea of where and how he’ll fit in. In the immediate term, Carter Verhaeghe is the most likely player to get bumped from the lineup. While Verhaeghe has good offensive skills for a depth player, Mitchell Stephens has worked his way into the good graces of the coaching staff with his faceoff, defensive, and penalty kill contributions. Pairing Coleman with Stephens and Gourde and bringing the ice time of that trio up to that of a true third line can provide the Lightning with another shut down defensive line that can create some offense.
We’ll have more analysis of the trade tomorrow morning but for now, this is high price to pay for forward depth and huge win now move. The Lightning are officially all in for 2019-2020.