Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman probably likes how his team is performing this year. The rookies coming in, veterans returning to form, it seems to be working and clicking with his team.
However, when the March 5th NHL trade deadline passes, Yzerman may look to make a deal to help his club for a potential playoff run.
Yzerman might be trading for an experienced top-6 defenseman to help eat up time and prevent the defensive exposure in critical situations to rookies such as Mark Barberio, Andrej Sustr and Radko Gudas. It will also relieve some of the pressure on Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer and Matt Carle and keep those guys fresh as well.
Another reason why Yzerman might make a deal for a defenseman is that with the oft-injured Sami Salo being unavailable for every few weeks it’s not a bad idea to stock up when things get more physical in the playoffs.
One question is what kind of top-6 defensemen is available at the deadline and who would Yzerman and coach Jon Cooper want without denting the team’s future seriously and who fits into the system. A name that comes to mind would be Dallas Stars veteran D Sergei Gonchar but that price might be too steep given how Stars GM Jim Nill is in a definite rebuilding scenario in Dallas and Gonchar has a no-trade clause as well.
Another question would be what kind of length Yzerman would be willing to take on if a pending UFA defenseman is unavailable. He doesn’t really want to take on cap room because there are many young players talented enough to play at the NHL level in just a few years like Syracuse Crunch D-man Dmitri Korobov who will give better play over a longer period. Not to mention that cap room will be needed in the future to lock-up Steven Stamkos after his current contract runs out in 2016 and the current crop of players including G Ben Bishop when their current deals are up.
The one thing that may prevent Yzerman from making any type of deal is price. The trade deadline always causes an inflated value of players and the asking price may be something that is bordering on unreasonable. Many GMs, such as Nill, want to maximize what they get in return for a veteran player and Yzerman is not known to handicap the future success of the franchise for a possible first or second round departure.
For now though, the Lightning could use some more depth at the blue line to spot the defense while gaining insurance for a playoff run and hopefully a deep one at that.