Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times caught up with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman for his latest column and discussed things from expiring contracts to injured players. When broaching the subject of the trade deadline and the possibility of moving upcoming free agents like Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, Yzerman wasn’t willing to give up on his squad.
We’re competing for a playoff spot so if I’m going to move people.. I’m not just giving people away here. If it makes sense, I’ll do it. If it doesn’t make sense, I’m not. It’s not a firesale.
That’s a common opinion among GMs across the league, who are finding the deadline this year extremely difficult. The looming expansion draft is changing the way teams operate this year, and as Yzerman notes “protection issues, that is a factor in acquiring and trading players.” Indeed, adding a player who might have to be left exposed is just another complication to a deadline that has become more and more difficult since the salary cap debuted.
- The other thing to note about the Tampa Bay deadline is that playoff spot that Yzerman mentions. Even though the team is just two games over .500 and four points out of last place in the entire Eastern Conference, he’s right when he says they’re still in a playoff race. The Atlantic division in particular is still wide open, with only 12 points separating first and last place. The Lightning find themselves just five points out of the final wildcard spot, and six out of third in the Atlantic.
- Yzerman is still operating as if Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan will return at some point this season, which would greatly affect their salary cap situation. If the two can get back though, they’ll be a bigger addition than any trade deadline acquisition. Stamkos has reportedly begun some light skating, and is still on his 4-6 month timeline—that leaves much speculation though, as four months would be mid-March and six would be the end of the playoffs.
- Even if a firesale isn’t happening, the Lightning will have some tough decisions up front. As we’ve detailed before, they have an expansion draft crunch and a salary situation that will make for a tough summer. With Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin all needing new deals, it looks like at least one of their forwards will need to be shipped out. Alex Killorn looks like a natural possibility, but it may have to be the diminutive Johnson depending on the offers that come in.