It’s the most wonderful time of year for NHL speculation. The trade deadline is just over two weeks away and with a couple of big names already off the market, teams are digging through their prospect lists and figuring out which draft picks they actually own in order to make offers and counteroffers for the player they think is going to help them. That includes the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Due to their limited cap space and generally well-functioning line-up they currently have, the Lightning aren’t going to be the biggest name out there looking for a talent infusion, but general manager Julien BriseBois is always on the lookout for a player that can help the team. Unfortunately, they are also one of the more tight-lipped teams in the league, so there isn’t much in the way of actual names leaking out of the offices on Channelside Drive.
That being said, there are a couple of players that have been linked to the Bolts by reputable sources (let this serve as your annual reminder to always double check your sources online), so let’s take a look at those two and see if it makes sense for the Lightning to make the deal.
Luke Schenn – Defenseman, Vancouver Canucks
Remaining cap hit – $271,081, will be an Unrestricted Free Agent
52 games, 3 Goals, 15 assists, 69 PIM
Schenn is the player that had been the most often associated with the Lightning at this year’s deadline. There are things to like about Schenn with nostalgia being at the top of the list. He is familiar with the system having been a part of both Stanley Cup runs. He’s relatively cheap so Mr. BriseBois won’t have to get too creative to bring him in and stay under the cap. Schenn also possesses the physical qualities that the Lightning like to have on their defense.
The simplest swap in terms of playing time and cap management would be a straight one-for-one with Cal Foote. The salary hits are identical and Schenn would drop in as the 7th defensemen on most nights. Would it be an upgrade for the Lightning? Based on their play this year, not really
While Schenn does offer slightly more offense than Foote (at least for this season) both are below water when it comes to suppressing other team’s offense, something that they would be brought in to do.
So, if things were to stay the same and either Foote or Schenn were on the roster as the 7th defenseman, there wouldn’t be much difference. However, if, say Erik Cernak were to miss some extended time because he blocked yet another shot in a spot where he had no padding, who would Coach Cooper be more comfortable slotting in on a regular basis, Foote or Schenn?
Chances are it would be Luke Schenn. He’s been basically playing second pairing minutes with Vancouver this season and hasn’t been run out of the building. If they Lightning are looking at shoring up the depth outside of their top-six defensemen, Schenn wouldn’t be a horrible pick-up.
Down the road, a Schenn-for-Foote deal would also eliminate a RFA decision for Mr. BriseBois this summer. Nick Perbix’s play has made Foote’s position in the organization a little more uncertain and it might be time for him to explore hockey in a different market. Vancouver would be getting a younger defensive player to go along with their rebuilding efforts, albeit one with a pretty decent pedigree.
If this is a straight one-for-one deal, I would probably be okay with it, if Vancouver is looking for sweeteners in either prospects or picks, I would likely hold off and explore other options. The latest reports have the Lightning’s interest in Schenn cooling, but that could change if Vancouver doesn’t find the market for him quite as high as they expect.
Tyler Bertuzzi – Forward, Detroit Red Wings
Remaining cap hit – $1,514,865, will be an Unrestricted Free Agent
20 Games, 2 Goals, 5 assists
Bertuzzi’s name crept up more recently in association with the Tampa Bay Lightning after it was reported that the Red Wings and the 28-year-old forward have not progressed on an extension. If the Bolts want to add a little more physical play to their bottom-six lines, Bertuzzi could be a player that they turn to.
Since he carries a slightly more substantial hit than Schenn, the fiduciary side of things is a little more complex, but with some salary retention it could work out. The Lightning may be be able to package a combination of Foote, Vlad Namestnikov, and a pick or prospect to entice Steven Yzerman to take the deal. It’s unlikely that Bertuzzi would garner a first-round pick so the Lightning should be in play for him.
Had this been a year ago, the asking price would likely be a bit higher, but a cavalcade of injuries has limited Bertuzzi to just 20 games. After missing all of December, he has struggled a bit since his return, recording just 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 11 games. He has, however, put up okay numbers in terms of possession.
Bertuzzi has a style of play that appeals to Coach Cooper and Mr. BriseBois. He’s a solid forechecker and can handle the puck. He can also put the puck in the net, as he’s just a season removed from scoring 30 goals in 68 games for the Red Wings and has two other 20+ goal seasons on his resume.
Aside from his health is also the question on if the Red Wings are ready to be sellers at the deadline. While they are currently 6th in the Atlantic, they are only 5 points out of the second wild card spot. That’s close enough that a solid winning streak would vault them over some teams ahead of them in the standings.
However, as we saw in Tampa during the 2016-17 season when the Lightning were chasing a spot, Mr. Yzerman isn’t adverse to making a trade to better his team’s future even when the current iteration is technically in contention. So, if he sees value in a deal that the Lightning are offering, he would likely take it.
As the weeks progress, the Lightning will most likely be tied to more names around the league (maybe even Ivan Barbashev) and we’ll try and keep you updated in regards to the solid rumors (as opposed to the Insiderzzzz making stuff up out of thin air).