Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had no issue shedding salary to add new defenseman Anton Stralman but is he done shedding salary? There has been some speculation that Yzerman would try and move defenseman Matt Carle as the next wave in the “war on salary cap.”
A few things on this, yes Carle had a down year with the Lightning last year, he posted a 42 percent Corsi over the course of last season and didn’t seem to find much rhythm playing with Radko Gudas whom he had to caretake for much of the season. Gudas, incidentally had a decent puck possession year ending the season at 49 percent.
So is it time to trade Carle, who was one of the first signings Yzerman made, to clear up cap space? The answer is no.
Trading Matt Carle would lead to the one thing Yzerman has strived for on this team since day one—depth . With Eric Brewer coming off the books next year, trading Carle would mean having to fill two defensive spots instead of just one and the Lightning don’t have the depth ready to handle that load. So this year’s headache of finding a top-4 defenseman, well it would be a worse—a lot worse. They would have to find not only a replacement for Carle, either in house or via free agency, but also find a replacement for Brewer. It’s a bit easier to replace an 18 minute player in Eric Brewer as the Lightning’s defenseman could be capable of having one from the corps step up to eat up those minutes but it would be difficult to replace Carle, at least right away.
Not only would it make next summer a bit uncomfortable but it would also make this season unbearable. There aren’t many guys who can step up and play the 22 minutes a night Carle can play in the system currently. In fact, there were only two defensemen who played over 20 minutes a night for the Bolts, one was Carle and the other Victor Hedman.
For those thinking that Andrej Sustr is ready to make the jump, well he only averaged 15 minutes a night. Jumping up five more minutes a night after one year of NHL play is not a smart move for any player let alone one who hasn’t played a full NHL season still. Sustr may turn out to be a really great top-4 if not top-2 defenseman but at this point there is no need to force him into a role that will see diminished returns immediately. Yzerman and crew have always been about letting the players develop naturally—see Drouin, Jonathan.
Yes, Carle’s cap hit doesn’t match the production he has given the team based on last season, but realistically there are many more options than attempting to trade a player, his contract is not going to be easy to move, who can rebound and may fair better with a different defense partner more suited for his role. Carle needs a partner who can be a “stay at home” defenseman, someone who will be able to mask any defensive issues Carle has. In Philadelphia, the last team he played with before signing in Tampa, Carle played with Chris Pronger who makes everyone look better. Now the Lightning don’t have a Chris Pronger player to help Matt Carle but they do have some solid defensemen who can keep him out of trouble such as Anton Stralman.
The Yzerman regime has preached patience with every one of their players and now Carle should get added to that list and see if he can rebound before someone decides to ship him out because although it may look good on paper in the interim, it can definitely hinder the progress the Lightning have made as of yet.