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Lightning Round: Let’s check in on the Vancouver Canucks

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The Lightning are likely to get the Canucks first round pick this summer.

Vancouver Canucks v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Last summer, the Lightning traded J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks at the draft in exchange for a 3rd round pick in last year’s draft and a conditional first round pick in this summer’s draft. They used the third round pick to draft goaltender Hugo Alnefelt who is showing early signs of having NHL potential including a good showing at the World Junior Championships that ended last month.

The biggest piece of the trade was the first round pick. The condition provided that the Lightning would receive the pick this summer as long as Vancouver wasn’t in the draft lottery. If they were in the lottery, meaning they missed the playoffs, then the Lightning would receive Vancouver’s first round pick in 2021 regardless of where it fell.

The prospect of receiving an unprotected pick in 2021 from a team that has been a perennial cellar dweller was intoxicating at the time of the trade. That had the potential to be a horrendous deal for the Canucks.

But that outcomes is looking less and less likely. As of this morning, the Canucks currently have an 86% chance of making the playoffs according to HockeyViz. And if they do, that would end the dream of the Lightning getting an unprotected first next year and they would instead settle for this year’s first, which will likely fall somewhere in the early 20s.

At the time of the trade, most of the Lightning world had their eyes and hearts set on the Canucks continuing to be bad and the pick being unprotected in 2021. But that dream is growing less and less likely.

The Canucks still aren’t a particularly good team. They’re 23rd in expected goal share at 5v5 and 24th in all situations. But they’ve been buoyed by good shooting and goaltending. At this point, they’ve racked up enough points that missing the playoffs is unlikely.

This has implications for the Lightning as they approach the trade deadline. Being confident that they’ll have two first round picks this summer gives them a more clear picture of the trade options. It might even make them more willing to make a trade if they’re looking at the prospect of having two picks in a short range in June.

Lightning Org News

The Syracuse Crunch won yesterday in a morning game where local students attended as part of a field trip. They beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2 on goals from Alex Volkov, Danick Martel, and Peter Abbandonato. The Crunch will look to use that win to build momentum headed into a weekend back to back against North Division rivals Utica and Rochester.

The Crunch also sent goalie Mike Condon to Orlando. I’m not sure but in the final year of a three year NHL deal that pays him $2.4 per season, Condon has to be one of the more expensive players to spend time in the ECHL this season.

Other Hockey News

Popular trade target Chris Kreider returned to the lineup for the New York Rangers last night meaning that he’ll have a few weeks to showcase his talents to potential suitors. He got off to a hot start with a goal in his first game back. He’s the kind of player who would fit as a middle six forward on almost any contender so the Rangers will likely get multiple good offers as the deadline gets closer.

His return helped spark the Rangers to a 5-3 victory over the Leafs who remain in fourth place in the Atlantic and outside the playoff picture. They’re currently two points behind the Flyers for the final wild card spot and one point behind the Panthers for the first wild card spot but Florida has two games in hand.

In the only other game action last night, the Bruins pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win puts them back ahead of the LIghtning for first place in the Atlantic by five points. The Lightning will get a chance to cut into that lead tonight with another difficult home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.