Bolts Offseason Priority: Top Four Defenseman
The [insert team name here] would like to add a top four, right handed, puck-moving defenseman to their roster. This desire is not limited to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but is certainly one of their most glaring needs. With a bevy of prospects to potentially trade, who might GM Steve Yzerman target this offseason? Let’s take a look at a few trade targets and pending free agents:
Matt Niskanen: The Pittsburgh defenseman is about to get paid! With a 46 point regular season, a shallow free agent pool and his relative youth (27), Niskanen will be the bell of the ball. In order to win his services, a team will likely need to offer a deal of 3+ years with a cap hit of $5-6 million.
Dan Boyle: Boyle’s production has dropped in the past couple of seasons, but what do you expect from a 37 year old? If the desire is there for a return to Tampa Bay, Boyle could likely be had for 1-2 years with a cap hit of around $5 million. A hefty price given the unknown quality of his remaining time in the league, but he certainly fits the bill of a puck mover. (Dan Boyle and Feature Box Photo/Bridget Samuels)
Tom Gilbert: Gilbert is a solid, but unspectacular option. After being bought out by the Wild, Gilbert signed a cheap one year deal with the Panthers and put together a solid campaign. 28 points to go along with an average of 21+ minutes a night on a bad Florida team. Gilbert could be quite a bargain pickup – something in the range of $3-4.5 million on a 2-3 year deal.
Keith Yandle: Puck mover? Check. Yandle put up 53 points last season and is signed for two more years at a $5.25 million cap hit. It will take at least one prospect, such as Brett Connolly and a bit of salary heading the other way for this to work. The Coyotes could choose to retain salary on Yandle, but the more likely situation is a player like B.J. Crombeen being included to balance out the scales a bit. The Bolts would likely need a pick or two included in this deal.
Ryan Ellis: Ellis’ name has been bandied about for some time as a potential trade target. The Dan Boyle-sized righty is a restricted free agent, having just put up 27 points in his first NHL campaign. A prospect-for-prospect swap, especially for one of Tampa’s young forwards, makes sense here. But does Ellis fill the need for a prolific defensive player?
Alexander Edler: Edler’s production has dropped the past two seasons and he seems to have fallen out of favor in Vancouver. He’s left handed, but certainly fits the bill as a top four defenseman. At 28, he’s signed for the next five years with a cap hit of $5 million. Very similar to Matt Carle’s deal, and not a bad number given the rising salary cap. To land Edler, the Lightning would likely look to move Teddy Purcell and his salary along with a prospect and a pick.
Yzerman is never one to make the obvious move, so it will be interesting to see what happens. He didn’t address the defense last season to the surprise of many, but the team’s quick exit from the playoffs made the need even more glaring.
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