The NHL Trade Deadline is upon us; in less than four days time everyone’s rosters will be more or less set.
This season’s deadline feels very unique in that there is a legit elite talent expected to be moved. This has not happened in my memory; stars that get moved are past their prime or way overhyped because no one else was available. So the fact that we could see a player of Kevin Hayes’s caliber is really exciting.
Wait, hang on. I’m getting word that the Ottawa Senators are very likely to trade Matt Duchene. Huh. Guess I should start over.
This season’s deadline feels very unique in that there is a legit elite talent expected to be moved. This has not happened in my memory; stars that get moved are past their prime or way overhyped because no one else was available. So the fact that we could see a player of Matt Duchene’s caliber is –
Hold up. Now I’m hearing that multiple teams are pushing hard for Mark Stone. Wow.
This season’s deadline feels very unique in that there is a legit elite talent expected to be moved. This has not happened in my memory; stars that get moved are past their prime or way overhyped because no one else was available. So the fact that we could see a player – SIRENS SOUNDING
Holy crap, all signs point to Artemi Panarin being moved before the deadline. This is getting out of hand.
Look, it might seem like I’ve wasted an entire minute of your time, but I wanted to make sure you understand how unprecedented this deadline is in the cap era. You never see one top-tier talent, let alone three, available at the deadline. And at least amongst forwards the drop-off is not too steep. Hayes and Mats Zuccarello and Wayne Simmonds are all solid middle-six editions that will have an impact on a roster.
So with that in mind, there’s only one question we must ask: what are the Tampa Bay Lightning going to do?
Likely, they do nothing. But that’s too easy and not as fun as speculation, so here is a list of players rumored to be available for trade and a reason that General Manager Julien Brisebois could make a move for them.
Wayne Simmonds, RW Philadelphia Flyers
Simmonds has long been rumored to be on Tampa Bay’s radar dating back to last season’s deadline. He would add some size and a modicum of scoring depth, slotting into a spot on the third line or even the fourth if Jon Cooper wants to go all-in on physical presence. He is a UFA at the end of the season, so this would likely be a pure rental for the Lightning. Around his peak he was a 30-goal scorer who could put up 60 points, but the last few seasons his production has substantially dipped.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not a huge fan of this possibility. His health scares me in that he has physically looked slower as he’s aged and dealt with long-term injuries. He certainly would not be making this team any faster and the biggest up-side to his game – his power play production – is not something the Bolts need to upgrade. If he’s the only winger left available and the team feels it needs to make a move, go for it. But as you’ll find out below, there are better options.
Gustav Nyquist, RW Detroit Red Wings
Nyquist is an interesting player. When he came through the Red Wings organization he was hailed as the heir to Pavel Datsyuk’s throne, to eventually be the franchise’s number one center. That did not pan out in a big way, as the organization appears ready to move on. While he never quite came close to the summit of his potential, he is still a very good hockey player. His production is that of a modest second-line player, never failing to reach the 40-point mark in a full NHL season, and he has a two-way game that would be coveted by this team. Plus his possession numbers are crazy good compared to the teams he’s played on.
At 29 and a $4.75m cap hit, there wouldn’t be much of a future in Tampa Bay beyond this year and no one is sold on whether or not Detroit wants to move him out. Plus he has a full no-trade, although I’m not sure there is a single player in the league that would not waive that right to come to Tampa.
Cody Ceci, D Ottawa Senators
Now hang on, hear me out.
What do the Lightning need? A right-handed shot defenseman. And what is Cody Ceci? A right-handed shot defenseman! He would be available at a – FBI BREAKS DOWN THE DOOR AND DESTROYS MY LAPTOP
Mark Stone, RW Ottawa Senators
Now here’s a Senator that the Lightning would seriously look to bring in. Stone would be a big get, but also a pricey one. He is one of the premier two-way forwards in the game that puts up 60 points in his sleep. His mix of size, smooth skating and soft hands makes him a beast in the neutral zone that can shut down opposing stars and turn defense into offense in the blink of an eye. Everyone in the league wants him, so the price will keep the Bolts out of this bidding war. Don’t expect this deal to happen, but then again, you can never count out this front office.
Artemi Panarin, LW Columbus Blue Jackets
Panarin, like Stone, would be a massive and shocking addition, solidifying the top line and giving Tampa Bay the undisputed best forward group in the league. He is a point-per-game producer in 299 NHL games and has 15 points in 17 playoff games. His playmaking ability is unparalleled in this league and if forced to watch him play on a line with Steven Stamkos, the rest of the league would fold.
With no extension in place ahead of his UFA status this season, Columbus will sell for the right price. This is another bidding war that the Lightning cannot win but societal norms dictate that in a trade deadline preview I have to pretend like the top players available are realistic targets. Although who knows; sometimes the power of friendship can be very influential.
Dougie Hamilton/Brett Pesce/Justin Faulk, D Carolina Hurricanes
At this point it is unclear if the Hurricanes will sell; going into Thursday night they sit one point behind Columbus for the last wild card spot, although the Blue Jackets have a game in hand. According to the insiders, General Manager Don Waddell was shopping Michael Ferland as late as last month and was hearing offers on pretty much every defenseman other than Jaccob Slavin. If they believe they have a chance to make the playoffs, they won’t sell anyone. But if any of these three guys are available, the Lightning should be first in line.
All three of these players would be an instant upgrade to an already above-average blueline. They are all really good skaters who can contribute offensively and move the puck in their own zone. They can play with Victor Hedman or anchor the third pairing to give the Bolts the ability to ice a premier defenseman on every shift. Faulk would be the best fit, as he is signed just through next year at a reasonable cap hit and would likely cost the least in terms of assets given up.
Mats Zuccarello, LW New York Rangers
Okay, time to come clean. This list was all about building to my vision for the Lightning’s deadline. And before you object to yet another trade with the Rangers, think about this for a second.
Zuccarello has come alive in the last few months and shown he is still capable of being a top-six playmaker. He’s well on his way to his fifth consecutive 50+ point campaign and sixth in his seven full NHL seasons. He plays a fast game and likes to create from the half-wall, as well as utilizing a very accurate wrist shot. He has assisted on half of center Mika Zibanejad’s goals this season, who is having a breakout year offensively. Look at what some of the plays he's made this year. Now imagine that’s Stamkos on the receiving end.
I think Zuccarello could jumpstart Stamkos and get him close to the goalscoring form he had before his leg injury. This would be so crucial for the playoff run because Stamkos would have a playmaker on his line and the burden would not fall completely on his shoulders.
The technical aspects of a potential trade work out as well. His cap hit can fit into this team as it stands now, as Tampa Bay has about $6 million and Zuccarello is only $4.5. Plus according to Bob Mckenzie the asking price may end up being something like a second rounder and a prospect. That is a bargain of a price that the Bolts can afford to pay and Brisebois should be knocking down the MSG doors to get it done. I bet the FBI can give him tips.
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