Boucher: Should Tampa Bay Pursue Defense At The Trade Deadline?
A soft trade deadline went into effect as the NHL halted their season for the Winter Olympics. The Lightning remained quiet for now. There has been some discussion of the potential moves Steve Yzerman could look to make when league play resumes. The Bolts definitely have needs. With a very young defensive squad, it could stand to reason that they would be in the market for a Top four blueliner before the final trade deadline on March 5. It’s worked for them in the past. In fact, the recent ten year anniversary of the trade for Darryl Sydor highlights just how important a skilled addition on the back end can be. (Photo/Susan Ferlita)
Heading into the latter part of the 2003-04 season, the Lightning needed something extra in the mix. They decided a veteran puck moving defenseman would be the right move going forward. At the time, it was seen as a gamble to give up young forward Alexander Svitov and a third round pick. A decade later, then Tampa GM Jay Feaster stated that Sydor’s acquisition was the key to the Stanley Cup run. The trade for the veteran took place on January 29, 2004. Sydor played in 31 of the 32 remaining regular season games. The Lightning lost just nine of the final 32 games and tied twice. He solidified the blueline and everything radiated from there.
The Lightning find themselves in a similar scenario in 2014. A seasoned d-man could be just what they need as they head towards a potential playoff berth.
There are a number of unrestricted free agents who could be a good fit for the Bolts.
One name that has been floated a bit recently is Andrew MacDonald of the
New York Islanders. He is seeking a larger contract, around four or five years for about $5 million per year. As of right now he is on pace to have the best offensive year of his career so far. He also averages around 26:40 TOI. MacDonald is a workhorse who could find a team for the remainder of the season while his cap hit is still $550,000. MacDonald is an up and coming player who may be overlooked because of the market he currently plays in. A downside may be a lack of offensive instinct, which is key in Jon Cooper’s system in Tampa.
Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers and Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins are more well known names. Girardi isn’t that much of an offensive threat, but he is a gritty player who wouldn’t be afraid to clear out the crease to protect the goaltender. Niskanen has blossomed since coming to the Pens and is having the best year of his career. The downside for these two is their contract sizes. Girardi is seeking a sizable new deal that will keep him somewhere for a long time. If Pittsburgh is going to be without Kris Letang for a while, they will definitely want to hang on to Niskanen.
There is one UFA defenseman with a very familiar name… Dan Boyle. Boyle is a very coveted type of player. He is a right handed, puck carrying blue liner with a Stanley Cup on his resume who regularly hits the 50 point mark. A veteran presence that could help to season the young players around him, there’s really only one downside to Boyle. His current contract is $6.6 million. He would have to be willing to take a discounted salary for this homecoming to work.
A mid-season transaction for one of the aforementioned players would most likely involve a player like Teddy Purcell, a prospect and possibly a pick going the other way. Yzerman won’t make a move unless he feels it has to be done. If the team goes after a top four defenseman, it’s a good indication that the GM believes the Lightning have what it takes to win now. Cementing the blueline corps could be just what they need to put them over the top. After all, it worked in 2004.
(Feature Box Photo/CS Smith)
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