Lightning stand pat at Trade Deadline

There would be no last minute deals this year

Over all, the final day of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was a rather slow one. By the time the trade queue at the NHL offices were cleared a little after 3:00 PM EST, the grand total of deals completed on Friday stood at 19.

While the finale was rather tame, the weeks leading up to Friday were fun. Plenty of big time players were moved. Many, many draft picks changed ownership and just about every team made at least one move over the last 30 days. Per Cap Friendly, only the Florida Panthers didn’t make a trade in the last 30 days. Due to the complex nature of some deals, it feels like GMs wanted to get them done faster rather than sooner, leading to more action prior to the last day then we are used to. Also, with as close as some of the playoff races are, having a difference maker in the line-up for one or two extra games may be the difference in making the postseason and missing it.

According to reports at least one deal fell apart in the home stretch. It sounds like the Detroit Red Wings may have been on the verge of acquiring James Van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers, but needed to move another player first. They didn’t do that, so JVR is staying put in the City of Brotherly Love. Had they started that potential trade on Wednesday or Thursday, might they have pulled it off?

As for the Tampa Bay Lightning there would be no last minute deals pulled off by Julien BriseBois this time. Having acquired Tanner Jeannot for Cal Foote and several draft picks late Sunday night, and then Michael Essyimont on Wednesday for Vlad Namestnikov (who was in turn traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday), the team will roll into the rest of the season pretty much on status quo.

There were some rumblings that the Lightning may have kicked the tires on acquiring Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg, but he ended up heading to Minnesota. Montreal defenseman Joel Edmundson was also rumored to be on their radar, but he ended up staying with the Canadiens.

Following the deadline, Mr. BriseBois spoke to the press and seemed content with the defensive alignment as it is, telling reporters:

“I think we have Philippe Myers and Darren two right-shot defensemen who can come up and play for us and we’d be comfortable playing them in the playoffs...As far as I’m concerned, we have good depth. Our regular six are all good NHL defensemen.”

With the upgrades their likely first round opponents (the Toronto Maple Leafs) made, that defensive depth will be tested. It’s a unit that has had solid moments in the season, but, like the rest of the team, has been shaky over the last three or four weeks. Hopefully, Mr. BriseBois’ faith in them is rewarded.

Prior to the trade season, the general manager had spoke to the press about the restrictions he faced heading into the deadline in regards to cap space. He did say that he would be looking for ways to make the Lightning a tougher team to play against and he believes that the additions of Jeannot and Eyssimont have done that. Talking specifically about Eyssimont he said,

“He’s a relentless forechecker, someone that’s going to add some speed to our bottom six and who can move up and down the lineup. We play at our best when we’re relentlessly forechecking and that’s the style of play that Mike likes to play.”

He may have been talking about Eyssimont, but the same applies for Jeannot. The best way to alleviate pressure on the defense is to keep the puck out of the defensive zone. For the Lightning, that means creating havoc with the forecheck and getting their high-low game working. In theory Jeannot and Eyssimont should help them maintain or regain possession of the puck in the offensive zone. Now, they and their teammates have to actually go out and execute that game plan.

A quote that a lot of fans will likely latch onto in a negative way is his “Odds are, we’re not going to win the Cup this year.” Out of context it’s not the type of thing anyone wants to hear from the general manager. However, he was pointing out that the odds are, in fact, stacked against every team in the league. With every playoff round being basically a coin flip, a team’s chances of going all the way are about 6.25%. I’ll trust his math on that.

The moves he had made throughout his tenure have all been in order to maximize the Lightning’s odds for as long as possible.  It sounds like he wants to keep Jeannot and Eyssimont past this season. One note, it seems there was some confusion on Eyssimont’s status following this season. He is listed as a RFA, but it appears he is actually a Group 6 unrestricted free agent:

He is currently at 40 NHL games played in his career so he won’t hit that 80 game limit this season. It’ll be interesting to see if Mr. BriseBois tries to sign him before the July free agency period.

The wonderful thing about the trade deadline is that we don’t know how things are going to turn out until the season is over. Did he do the right thing by not working out a deal? Will they fall a player short? Right now we can’t answer that question. The decisions that thirty-one teams made over the last month will prove to be, in the end, fruitless since only one team can raise the Cup. Will the Lightning be the one that got it right? Stay tuned to find out.