Thursday, February 23, 2012

Steve Yzerman - Keeping the Trade Deadline Interesting

If it’s game day, General Manager Steve Yzerman must be making a roster move.  This time, in a bit of twist, he actually added a player to the roster.  Former Penguin and Islander Tim Wallace is the newest Bolt having been claimed on waivers prior to Thursday’s match-up with the Winnipeg Jets.
TAMPA FAN LIKE FIGHT - photo from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Listed at 6’1” and 207 lbs. the native of Alaska (and former Alaskan All-Star teammate of Nate Thompson) brings some size to the Lightning.  According to my source in Pittsburgh (Hi Link!) he is physical but not the fastest skater.  That makes me wonder how he’ll adapt to Coach Boucher’s style of play which, quite frankly, requires a lot of skating.

One thing Wallace probably won’t be doing a lot of is scoring, as he’s racked up a scintillating 3 assists in his 55 game NHL career.  Then again, you never know with the Lightning.  Over the last two seasons Thompson has potted 17 goals compared to the 4 he had in his previous three seasons of play. Teddy Purcell has blossomed into a sniper and the recently departed Dominic Moore also saw his goal scoring increase when coming to Tampa.

The 27-year-old winger carries a $700,000 cap hit and is only signed through the rest of the season.  If he’s part of Mr. Yzerman’s rebuild, no make that remodel, of the club has yet to be determined.  At the moment he is an affordable forward with NHL experience.  It allows Mr. Yzerman to fill a roster spot without further depleting a Norfolk Admirals squad that is in the midst of a heated playoff race in the AHL.

Since 2011 there have been reports that Norfolk has been seeking to replace the Lightning (or Tampa Bay seeking to replace the Admirals depending on who is writing the article). Continuing to pull key contributors up to the big club isn’t the best way to smooth over a possible rocky relationship with your highest level affiliate. 

In the meantime the gradual reshaping of the Lightning continues.  The moves Mr. Yzerman has made and will possibly make up to Monday and then in the off-season have to be taken as a whole.  Trading a top –six forward for a draft pick isn’t the best deal until we find out what he does with that pick. Removing three key players from a team that is creeping closer to a play-off spot may not be wise in the short-term, but could keep the team competitive for the long run.

During an interview with Dave Mishkin after the Steve Downie trade the General Manager admitted that last year’s success put a bit of a crimp in his plans to build up the farm system and acquire young talent.  He turned down deals for future assets in order to pursue a shot at the Stanley Cup, a shot that fell short by one goal.

This year he’s taking those deals (and getting a lot of credit from the Canadian media, by the way).  What won’t be clear until the start of next season is, what his grand plan is in acquiring all of these high draft picks.  Will he bundle them together to move up?  Will he bundle them to acquire a young goaltender or a blueliner?  Or will he actually use them to draft players? Who knows, maybe he trades them all away to draft the NHL’s equivalent to Ricky Williams. I would pay $56 to see Mr. Yzerman pose with Nail Yakupov in a wedding dress on the cover of The Hockey News.

As of now he’s keeping his options open.  I doubt he’s openly shopping any of his players at this point, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t listening to offers.  It’s possible that if Rick Nash ends up in Los Angeles, Brian Burke puts a call in to Channelside and inquires as to what it will take to bring Ryan Malone to Toronto.

A lot of us on the sidelines think it’s easy to be a GM.  We often forget that it takes two to tango, and sometimes three if the third person has themselves a fancy No Trade Clause in their contract.  We don’t have to answer directly to an owner or calculate long-term salary cap implications on deals. It’s easy to trade somebody when we don’t have a budget (which for some teams is way lower than the cap) to answer to.

I’ve fired a couple of #trustinyzerman hash tags out over the Twitter machine in the last two weeks. One, because I love to make lame hash tag jokes on the internet; and secondly, he hasn’t given us any reason not to.  The vast majority of moves he’s made have made this team better.  Heck, given another year Ryan Shannon may actually contribute.

Ryan Shannon doing what he does best - not scoring. Mike Carlson, Reuters

Two weeks ago I wrote that the Lightning were entering the most important stretch of their season.  They responded by going 4-2-1 and creeping a few points closer to the eighth and final play-off spot. They also lost their captain for at least three weeks with a broken finger, their best player’s best friend and line-mate, a top four defenseman and a solid defensive forward.  Oh and their mascot got fired.

This team isn’t better than it was two weeks ago, but it is on the path to being better next season.  We all just have to Trust In Yzerman.
It just isn't right, man. Michael Martin NHLI/Getty

1 comment:

TheRealDFG said...

Wallace was another guy (kind of like Tangradi only shorter) that just didn't pan out for the Pens. He was a workhorse for WBS and led the team in scoring a few years ago. Apparently he was pretty decent playing for Notre Dame too, although I don't remember him. Maybe he will find his place in the NHL playing for Tampa.