Monday, June 30, 2014

Steve Yzerman Opens Up For Free Agency Frenzy

With just a couple of phone calls General Manager Steve Yzerman managed to wash away the one solid trade Brian Lawton made for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Catching the league (and fans) unawares, Mr. Yzerman traded pass-happy forward Teddy Purcell to the Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner. He then flipped Gagner to the Arizona Coyotes (that's gonna take awhile to feel right) along with BJ Crombeen for a 6th round pick in 2015. For dessert he then traded everyone's favorite Alaskan Nate Thompson to the Anaheim Ducks for two more draft picks in 2015 (4th and 7th round).

The rapid succession of moves made clear a few things:

A: Steve Yzerman cares not for your deadlines or your sleep.
B. The Lightning scouting department will be working overtime this season.
C. Mr. Yzerman cleared over $6 million in cap space and the team is poised to be a big player once the July 1st Free Agent debacle begins.
D. Or not.

Lets not kid ourselves. This year's free agent market isn't exactly overflowing with sexy names. I don't see Mr. Yzerman clearing cap room to bring in Jarome Iginla or Martin Havlat. And Paul Stastny, while the marquee name on the list, doesn't exactly address a need for the team right now. That's not saying the general manager won't sign someone (after all he didn't tip his hand with the Valterri Filppula signing last year), it's not likely that all of the cap room will be spent on July 1st.

I also don't foresee any 2004 Stanley Cup reunion tours in the near future. Brad Richards, Dan Boyle, Nik Khabibulin, and Corey Sarich are all free agents while Philly is supposedly shopping Vincent Lecavalier. As big of a fan of nostalgia as I am, I don't see any of those players skating in Tampa anytime soon.

Most likely the team with use the space to fill in depth on the bottom two lines. So I wouldn't be surprised to see them sign a player along the lines of Dominic Moore or Marcel Goc. Heck, Steve Downie is out there and affordable. If we're talking reunions why not bring back The Little Ball of Fury?

Luckily free agency isn't the only route open. The Lightning have cap room and extra draft picks to deal. That makes them very enticing trade partners for some teams that might find themselves hamstrung by a $69 million salary cap. For instance. with only about $700,000 in wiggle room and his two stars contemplating $10 million a year contracts perhaps Stan Bowman might be willing to listen on an offer for Nick Hjalmarsson and his $4.1 million cap hit.

The Flyers gave Andrew McDonald lots and lots of money this off-season. As of yet they haven't been able to trade him to Columbus quite yet (as they do with most of their other failed investments) so they're feeling the cap squeeze. Would Luke Schenn make the Lightning better on the blue-line? I doubt it would make it worse.

Of course, all talks of trades are based on various players waiving their no-trade clauses, but if you're a player being shopped wouldn't Tampa be an intriguing destination? Never mind the “no state income tax” hoopla. I'm talking about joining a team that is legitimately poised to be a serious contender for the next few years. Already there have been a few “hey the Lightning are going to be really, really good” stories pop up among the national media, confirming what we've already realized. When compared to other organizations Tampa is becoming a desired destination.

Let's not forget one lingering, dirty background detail. There is a certain former member of the Sarnia Sting who is going to need a new contract soon.  It ain't gonna come cheap. Especially once Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane set the new bars for supremely talented goal scorers.

Monday night's Trade-a-palooza was just the opening salvo in what will probably be Mr. Yzerman's busiest off-season. It's also one of his most important as he looks to add the missing elements that can build on last season's success without destroying the foundation that has took him a few years to build.

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