What Lightning forward is gone when Stamkos is back?

Steven Stamkos is coming back this season, no denying that.

The question now is who stays and who goes for the Tampa Bay Lightning. In his absence, the squad has eight different players with ten goals or more which leads the league. So it’s hard because very few people aren’t contributing to this team’s success as they have caught Boston for first in the division. (The Bruins have one game in hand and lead the Bolts in the season series so far.)

There are a few options that general manager Steve Yzerman can look at. He can send someone down to the minors such as Nikita Kucherov or J.T. Brown to make room for Stamkos but that doesn’t really fit as those players have both shown that they are NHL ready now and have played really well so far. Kucherov just scored his eighth goal this past weekend against Carolina and secondary scoring has been the bane of existence for a team that has, in times past, depended heavily on Stamkos and Martin St. Louis for most of their scoring. So that may be off the table in Yzerman’s eye.

The other option one that will more than likely is Yzerman will make room via trade. After the Victor Hedman injury, the Lightning do need depth at the defenseman position.  They can’t depend solely on Sami Salo and Keith Aulie and prevent the younger defensemen from being exposed. They really can’t afford to have a top-4 defenseman go out and not have a suitable replacement. Besides, it’s always good to have defensive depth for a playoff run.

The reasons for a trade make sense but who gets traded is the question.

Yzerman may lean towards unloading Ryan Malone who is essentially a third line grinder now because his play on the top two lines hasn’t cut it and there are going to be teams looking for a forward with his size at the deadline. So Yzerman may be able to use Malone to get that coveted depth defenseman the Lightning need.

Another interesting player is Tom Pyatt. Pyatt hasn’t played much since coming back from a broken collarbone being a healthy scratch due to all the rookies who are playing well. Pyatt is a cheap third line center that gives teams depth up the middle and doesn’t cost much towards their cap hit. So he may be the one to move because he has more upside when compared to Malone because of the cap hit and the potential. Pyatt also doesn’t have the injury history that Malone does and can still be a very valuable asset to a team that is building or even a Cup contender.

The trade deadline is becoming more and more interesting to see because Yzerman has so many different options to better this team and the team is already good now. The only issue is that his hand will be forced when Stamkos returns because the game of musical chairs will end and Stamkos already has his name on one.