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Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Trade Target: Sean Durzi

Jan 25, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) skates with the puck as Arizona Coyotes defenseman Sean Durzi (50) defends during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s face it, guessing what Julien BriseBois and the Tampa Bay Lightning will do at the trade deadline is as easy as going back and doing 11th grade calculus as an adult. The organization is notoriously tight-lipped about their plans, and their idea of what the team needs doesn’t often jive with what the conventional media thinks they need. So, it’s usually a surprise when the Lightning make a move, especially with Mr. BriseBois at the helm.

It’s pretty obvious that the Lightning would like help on the defensive front. Even if Mikhail Sergachev still had a lower leg that was comprised of two intact bones they would be looking for help on the blue line. The Bolts are currently surrendering 3.39 goals per game, there is no team in a playoff spot that is even close to that number. Coach Cooper has mentioned it time and time again that giving up three or four goals a game isn’t a path to success in the NHL

The blessing of Sergachev shattering his leg is that the Lightning are able to move his contract hit to Long Term Injured Relief, opening up millions of cap space for Mr. BriseBois to play around with. So, they just need to go out and trade for the top defenseman on the trade block – Noah Hanifin, right? Well, the Lightning might have cap space, but they might not have the pieces to make that trade. If Ilya Lybushkin can garner a third-round pick, who knows what Hanifin is going to bring?

There is also the aversion to short-term rentals that Mr. BriseBois has displayed in past deadline deals. He likes to help the team today and tomorrow, so he’s targeted either players with term, or restricted free agents that can be re-signed for reasonable extensions. Of course, he usually signs them to long-term deals at a price that fans can grumble about for seven or eight seasons. Rumors abound that Hanifin wants to sign a long-term deal, but again, can the Lightning make it work financially.

So, let’s set our sights a little lower. How about a 25-year-old defenseman that is on a manageable contract ($1.7 million) and is set to be a RFA this summer? He is currently playing for a non-contender (Arizona) had possesses some skills that might help the Lightning out. That player – Sean Durzi.

The Arizona Coyotes defenseman is having his second strong season with 8 goals and 22 assists in 53 games. The 30 points is closing in on his career-high 38 that he had with the Los Angeles Kings in 2022-23. A look at his Evolving Hockey player card shows that his offensive prowess ranks him in the 92nd percentile in the league this year.

Yes, that offense is nice, but that isn’t the Lightning’s problem. What about those red defensive numbers? Look, not every trade candidate is going to be a perfect fit. If they are, the cost will be astronomical. So, there will be some flaws in whichever player Mr. BriseBois takes a swing at, but in those flaws there could be some traits that might help the Lightning.

If we look at Corey Sznajder’s microstats at All Three Zones, Durzi could help the Lightning with something they can struggle with at times – getting the puck the hell out of their own zone.

That lone Lightning player in the upper right quadrant (and yes, I love that Sznajder’s insistence on using the old logo) is Victor Hedman. Despite a less-than-stellar defensive season, The Big Swede has been the busiest player in terms of carrying the puck out and clearing it out. Nick Perbix (he’s in the upper left quadrant) is the only other player that carries the puck out at the same level as Hedman, but hasn’t been as successful at clearing the puck.

Part of that is a system issue, as the Lightning like to make those short passes to forwards in their own zone. You know, the ones that get picked off and lead to prime scoring chances when the timing isn’t quite right. There are times when they need someone to just grab the puck and get it out. Durzi could help with that.

He can also help keep the puck out of the Lightning’s zone. The Bolts are best when they’re standing up at the blue line and cutting the play off before it begins. As we see, Durzi has been one of the best Coyotes at entry denials.

Durzi is a natural right-shot defenseman, but he has flip-flopped sides this year playing most of his minutes on the right-side with J.J. Moser on the left. Recently he’s been on the left-side of the ice with Michael Kesselring on the right. He’ll give the Lightning some flexibility in regards to roster construction, while possibly seeing time as Hedman’s partner. With 3 goals and 9 assists on the power play, he’ll give Coach Cooper another option with the man advantage.

Do the Lightning have the assets to acquire Sean Durzi? Yes. Just a few months ago, Arizona picked him up from Los Angeles for a 2024 second-round pick. The Kings were in a bit of a salary cap bind as they were tight against the cap due to extensions to Pierre-Luc Dubois and Vladislav Gavrikov. They also had Brandt Clarke waiting in the wings.

The Bolts have a 2025 second-round pick at their disposal that they could send to Arizona (which would give them a hilarious five picks in that round). Or they could part with their 2024 third-rounder and include either a young defenseman like Emil Lilleberg or Nick Perbix in the deal.

Moving Perbix in the deal would bump up the Lightning’s salary cap commitments next season as he is signed for $1.125 million and Durzi’s next deal would probably be around $2 million. It’s not a huge jump, especially considering they are likely to replace Calvin de Haan and Haydn Fleury with a player from Syracuse.

It’s not the home-run type of deal that will transform the Lightning into the Stanley Cup favorite, but is the type of move that Mr. BriseBois tends to make as it will improve the team a bit, but also give him a player that he can keep on the roster for next year.

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