I really enjoy the NHL trading deadline. How much do I enjoy it? Well, last year I managed to come up with somewhat reasonable trades for the entire Tampa Bay Lightning roster. This year, not only do I not have the free time to do that, there is no need to. The Bolts have battled their way to the 2nd spot of the Eastern Conference and are rolling on at a fairly consistent pace.
However, what would a trade deadline be without rampant speculation. Let's be clear about that. I have no sources, no inside knowledge at all. As a matter of fact, if you've read this blog (or the previous incarnation) you know that my prognosticating skills are comically lacking.
That doesn't stop me, as a matter of fact, if anything it encourages me to try, try again. So as the magic date of February 28th draws nigh lets see if I can look into my crystal 8-ball and see how General Manager Steve Yzerman is going to retool his roster.
Ok....let's ask the question.....will there be a major addition to the Lightning roster...things are a little cloudy....now they're clearing up a bit...something is coming into focus....is it a name...nope...."Highly Unlikely"
Well, that's rather anti-climatic. No big scoring forward? No Tomas Kaberle or Zach Bogosian? Not even Alex Kovalev? C'mon crystal 8-ball!
Unfortunately, for Lightning fans who like big splashes and blockbuster deals it's probably going to be a relatively quiet deadline. While the Bolts do have some needs, they aren't exactly glaring needs. Some help on the blueline, another forward for depth and that's about it.
Injuries have hampered the current line-up a bit, but unlike at the beginning of the year it hasn't affected their top two lines. Nor are the injuries (other than Ryan Malone's) considered long term.
Their big move happened in January when Yzerman pulled the trigger for the well-traveled netminder Dwayne Roloson. The 41 year-old has provided a little bit of stability to the biggest hole in the Lightning's armour. While I wouldn't say the hole is filled in and fixed, it at least has a piece of plywood nailed over it.
The call up of veteran defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron has helped generate some offense from the defense (he has 4 points in 4 games or one less than Mattias Ohlund has in 49 games) but he isn't exactly there to keep the puck out of his own net.
The problem Yzerman is going to run into is that every team in the playoff hunt is going to be looking for a defensive defenseman. And there is a good chance that they're willing to give up more than the former Red Wing superstar is.
So far the have-nots have been demanding quite a bit for their assets. Second line center Mike Fisher and second/third line forward Kris Versteeg have both netted their former teams first round picks in the next amateur draft. Will Yzerman, who is going to be having to keep an eye on the cap once he signs young Mr. Steven Stamkos to a new deal, willing to part with a pick that could be vital to building the future of the Tampa Bay squad?
Most likely he won't. Nor does he want to absorb any other team's bad contact. Sorry Rangers fans, let's not even mention the name Wade Reddon. He's also not going to give up a lot for a one year rental (sorry Brian Burke). Also, there is a relatively small amount of dance partners out there to play with. Their are only 3-4 teams that are totally out of the race, heck the Devils with their recent hot swing are talking themselves into playoff contention.
So if Kaberle, Bogosian and Chris Phillips aren't going to be rocking the blue, black and silver who might be. Well one intriguing name would be Jim Vandermeer. Edmonton is one of the teams who will be a seller over the next two weeks. Could they be talked into a draft pick and one of young goalies that are currently cluttered up in the minors?
Vandermeer is a physical defenseman who can grind away 15-18 minutes a night making life rough for opposing offenses. As an unrestricted free agent after this season he isn't going to demand a king's ransom in return or tie up needed cap space next season.
Radek Martinek from the Islanders would be a similar player to target. Perhaps Mike Smith could find a new home on the Island. I mean he has to be a better option than Al Montoya, right?
Don't look for any help from South Beach. The chances of a division rival helping the Lightning out at the deadline are remote at best. Besides they're going to have their hands full with everyone else in the league trying to pick over their roster like vultures along I-75.
On the offensive side it's even murkier. With the LA Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins dominating any and all conversations in regards to forwards it's going to be hard to put a package together that will work. Brad Richards is the biggest name on the block as the Dallas Stars continue to fall out of contention. Getting Richards would be the Lightning fan's equivalent of a high-schooler getting Brooklyn Decker to go with him to the prom. In other words....it ain't happening.
So I guess I just spent a lot of time (I rewrote this thing two times) saying a lot of nothing. After all Vandermeer and Martinek aren't exactly the sexiest names out there. For the first time in three years the Lightning aren't going to be sellers at the deadline. Nor does it look like they are going to be major buyers. I guess that's a good thing. Boring, but good.