In part one of this NHL Trade Deadline preview, I took a look at the assets and cap space the Tampa Bay Lightning had to work with as March 3rd approaches. Without giving too much away, because frankly I want you to read that article, the Lightning don’t have much to work with.
With that in mind, today we look at the Lightning’s roster and see where improvements can be made.
First Line: Score. Score. Score. And they’re doing that. Check.
Second Line: The Anthony Cirelli line (often with Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn) is not asked to score at 5v5. Their real job is to saw off the other team’s first line in goals, even if it means losing the shots battle. Their scoring comes from special teams, notably Stamkos on the power play and Cirelli on the penalty kill.
In the Cup years much of this job went to the third line. It’s not necessarily bad, the Leafs do this, too, with John Tavares. Only a significant addition, like one for Ryan O’Reilly would be able to change much here.
Third Line: Ever since Cirelli returned, this line with Nick Paul at its center has been leaned on more and more defensively. Namely, trying to win minutes (positive shot share) despite lots of defensive zone starts. They haven’t succeeded up to this point.
Comparing Ross Colton-Paul-Pat Maroon to the third lines in Boston (Taylor Hall-Charlie Coyle-Nick Foligno) and Toronto (Alex Kerfoot-David Kämpf-Pierre Engvall) shows the Lightning haven’t been able to invest as much cap space or get the same results are their opponents from this line. I would be looking hard at getting a third liner to replace Maroon, who is too high up the lineup, that has the skills to drive play positively. That means someone who has a positive impact on shots for and shots against. I have a few names in mind for the next article.
Fourth Line: Crash and bang, don’t get in the way, try to flip the action to the opponent’s side of the rink. Corey Perry makes an impact on the power play second unit, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare works hard on the penalty kill. Vlad Namestnikov has been put here to help these two grey hairs get the puck up the ice at 5v5. PEB has good face-off numbers and decent shot share results in average zone starts, so I don’t think there’s a need to get a 4C at this point.
In a vacuum I would try to add some speed to go with heavy forechecking for this line, but I understand the importance of leadership.
First Pair: Victor Hedman with the top-six forwards and whoever can keep up with him for the other end. Can either go two-way with Zach Bogosian, or heavy minutes with Erik Cernak.
Second Pair: Mikhail Sergachev with the top-six forwards and whoever can help him with the other end. They can either go sheltered second pair here with Nick Perbix, or two-way with Cernak.
Third Pair: Ian Cole and whoever’s left playing exclusively with the bottom six. Depending on what kind of minutes the first two pairs get, they will either be heavy defensive (Cole-Cernak) as a pseudo-second pair or just a standard third pair.
Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy is our goalie, and if he’s out, it doesn’t matter who we have as backup. Brian Elliott helps the team more because he’s cheap and saves cap space for other areas of the team.
Extras: Rudolfs Balcers, Cole Koepke, Gemel Smith, Haydn Fleury, Cal Foote, Philippe Myers are the extras, almost all of them except Fleury and Foote are in the minors. Considering all these guys passed through waivers (or didn’t need them), there’s not much to complain about. Trying to stash better players in the minors is basically impossible with waivers, and the Lightning don’t have the roster space to keep extras.
The top six is about as good as can be expected. Brandon Hagel has saved the team from a cap space point of view as the Ondrej Palat replacement. The area of need is supporting the third line so they can keep the puck moving forward despite the defensive zone starts. Someone who’s good in the neutral zone, can handle tough minutes, and can win board battles. This description screams Ryan O’Reilly.
On defense the Lightning can either go for a complimentary defensive guy that could slot in on the third pair or with Hedman, or a two-way defender who can help the third pair move the puck. Simply put, if JBB can find an upgrade so the group is seven deep, then he should.
Who to get? Accounting for cost and cap space
This poll is closed
Middle six forward
Bottom six forward