The Tampa Bay Lightning have a need at defense. They need someone to play top four minutes with superstar Victor Hedman. The last few seasons, they have depended on Sami Salo to fill that void but Salo has lost a step or twenty and struggles with injuries each year even though he was able to play in 71 games this year. His previous season, he only played in 46 games.
There has been some speculation that GM Steve Yzerman will try and trade or sign for a defenseman, preferably a right-handed shot, due to the draft picks he has stock piled and the cap space available. Also there is this new fad going around that each pairing on defense should have a right and left handed shot.
Here’s the issue, the Lightning need to get the right defenseman, not just a right-handed shot. Meaning, Yzerman and company shouldn’t limit themselves to the players who only shoot right-handed. Ideally, one would like a top defenseman who shoots right handed but it isn’t necessary to better the Lightning—which is the ultimate goal.
Yzerman has to replace the minutes that Salo took up while shoring up the defensive corps so essentially he needs two defensemen as Keith Aulie has shown that he can’t handle a regular NHL load. Others such as Mark Barberio haven’t really earned top four minutes, essentially it’s a foregone conclusion that Yzerman will have to look outside of the team’s current talent pool.
This isn’t a problem as long as Yzerman doesn’t become narrow-minded on searching for a defenseman who isn’t going to magically appear. Sure he will look but it will hinder the team’s development if he decides to go the “band-aid” route and resign Salo as there are definitely better options out there via trade or free agency as long as the team keeps an open mind.
The beautiful thing is Yzerman may be able to have his cake and eat it too as Matt Niskanen shoots right-handed and is a pending UFA, although his current team the Pittsburgh Penguins may want to hang on to him. So Yzerman could use some of his cap space in a bidding war for Niskanen who is sure to be on a few teams lists or he could also look via trade. Dustin Byfuglien is another interesting choice but he would cost a lot via trade and may not be available.
While players like Niskanen will be available, Yzerman will have to make a move regardless, if he doesn’t get his prize and looking at left-handed shot defensemen who can play legitimate top-4 minutes may be his only option. It’s a better option than resigning an aging Salo who is regressing and will continue to regress.
Yzerman will always look to better the team and they could really use a right-handed shot but if that’s not available then more importantly he has to make sure he gets the right defenseman.