The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first round opponent, Toronto, made a trade, acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari, for a big price over the weekend. The Rangers also acquired Tyler Motte from Ottawa since my last trade preview article, which is why this last installment of the TBL TDL Preview took an extra day to get out.
Nevertheless, I have a decent list of players the Lightning definitely have the ability to acquire and will help them come playoff time. I also have some honorable mentions and a “no” list that might help narrow down the list.
Remembering back to last week, Philippe Myers has $1.425 million in dead money sitting on the Lightning’s cap with a current space of $1.57 million, meaning the Bolts have as much as $2.995 million to work with at the deadline. Just a tinge under $3 million, but that can be massaged to about $3.7 million by waiving Haydn Fleury.
It’s not much, but enough to get someone without paying for salary retention, though they’ll have to pay a team to take on Myer’s cap hit for this season and next. So with that in mind, I’ve made sure my list has players who can be had without paying for retention or selling Myers.
All that said, the real thing holding the Lightning back isn’t cap space, it’s asset capital.
Ivan Barbashev (St. Louis, 1 x $2.25 million)
Position: middle six forward
Barbashev is the highest calibre player the Lightning could probably afford, both on the cap and with the assets they have. St. Louis is probably pushing it by asking for a first round pick, but I think a second or a third with a decent prospect would do it.
Gustav Nyquist (Columbus, 1 x $5.5 million)
Nyquist is an interesting player. First of all, he’s injured until the end of the season, meaning he can go onto a team’s LTIR page and be a “free” rental on the cap. He won’t give a team more space, he just won’t use up any space. With that in mind, teams will still have to give up assets to acquire him, and trust he’ll be useful in the playoffs. He was a true second liner before the injury hit, it’s up to the doctors to say if he’ll be fully healed and ready to go come playoff time.
Personally, I think whoever gets Gavrikov will sweeten the deal enough to have Nyquist thrown in with him. Unfortunately, I think that team is Boston.
Sam Lafferty (Chicago, 2 x $1.125 million)
Position: third line center
Chicago is trying to stir some interest in Lafferty for this deadline, selling him on his production as a 2C on their team, his low cap hit, and control for another year. While I think the Lightning would like some of those things, Lafferty’s skill leaves a lot to be desired if he’s actually a 2C, but he can be part of a platoon on a third line to help provide the offense. Put Lafferty and Nick Paul together and you probably have an above-average 3C.
Luke Schenn (Vancouver, 1 x $850k)
Position: Third Pair RD
You know who he is, he’s not going to be much different than the last time he was here. He leads the league in hits, and (say it with me) that means he doesn’t have the puck very much. If he’s replacing Fleury and maybe Bogosian once in a while, that’s great. Don’t pay more than a third.
Nick Seeler (Philadelphia, 2 x $775k)
Position: Third Pair LD
Think Radko Gudas, and you know what Nick Seeler is about. Bonus, he’s only taken 10 minor penalties this season, compared to Gudas who’s taken 26 and is always near the top of the league in that category. I can see Seeler earning the job next to Hedman and playing a good, heavy, supporting role. Rasmus Ristolainen had his best minutes with Seeler while in Philadelphia.
Jake Walman is also very interesting. Someone will pay a lot to get him and they’ll be right with their bet.
Top 5 defensemen in expected goals above replacement per 60 (xGAR/60), minimum 500 minutes played (via @EvolvingHockey):— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) February 8, 2023
1. Adam Fox (NYR) - 1.02
2. Jake Walman (DET) - 0.997
3. Erik Karlsson (SJ) - 0.974
4. Nick Seeler (PHI) - 0.892
5. Jared Spurgeon (MIN) - 0.823 https://t.co/HuF9Cimh7A
Justin Braun (Philadelphia, 1 x $1 million)
Position: Third Pair RD
A shutdown defender who really neutralizes the game in both direction and can be had for a third. He’s recently turned 36, but his play this season on Philly hasn’t seen a drop off from last year. Again, the Lightning like their big, safe guys, and Braun is another in that group.
Dmitry Kulikov ($2.25m) - a potential second pair guy (I’m thinking 4/5) who’s mobile, plays the puck and the body. I kind of think of him as the fully-developed Nick Perbix. If Tampa wants to protect their rookie defender during his first playoff run and solidify the third pair, this would do double duty.
Jesse Puljujarvi ($3m) - deserves to go to a good home who will give him a role and not use him as a scapegoat. He can score lots of goals as a rush/shooting winger. Edmonton hasn’t wanted to play him like that, instead he’s been stuck in front of the net. Despite that, his neutral zone defensive play is very good. He’d be a big boon to the third line. The question is whether he’ll have shaken off the Edmonton stink (tactically and mentally) by the playoffs. He might be a project for another team. If I was Buffalo I would take a run at him.
Tyler Bertuzzi ($4.75m) - might be out of Tampa’s price range, but more interestingly, he might not be traded at all. Yzerman has come out to say if the Red Wings are in a playoff position come the deadline, he’ll keep all his UFAs. From a medium- and long-term perspective, this is a bad idea, but you do you, Stevie. Detroit was on a five-game winning streak and eighth in the conference due to points percentage when he said that, but one loss since then and they’re back out. Detroit will have to jump over four of Buffalo, Florida, Washington, Islanders, and Pittsburgh to make it.
Players to Avoid:
Patrick Kane - needs hip surgery, so I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-ft pole, especially at the cap hit. The picks for retention alone wouldn’t be worth it.
Max Domi - being pumped and dumped by Chicago, his results are much higher than what an acquiring team will be getting from him.
Shayne Gostisbehere - points are there, but his play is flimsy below the surface. Similar to Domi where everything is coming via the power play.
Jonathan Drouin - for obvious reasons, and his injury history.