Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Lightning and The Deadline - I Name Names

"We traded who? Is he on my line? No. Ok. I'm going to go score a goal now."

It’s time to light the fires on one of the best weeks in the NHL.  Well, the best week that doesn’t involve playoff games, that is.  From now until the 27th phone bills around the league are skyrocketing as general managers try to find the final pieces for their playoff teams. Or, teams that are out of the race look for the building blocks for next season.

The Lightning are occupying the nebulous area in between the two right now.  They currently stand six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with at least a game in hand on everyone they’re chasing.  The problem is that there are a bunch of teams that they are chasing. Including the eighth-spot Maple Leafs there are five teams within six points (and two more seven points out).  That’s a close race.

It’s closer than last week when Steve Yzerman admitted he was looking for the future instead of this season as the deadline approached.  His actions echoed his words as he was able to move Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks for a 2nd round pick and Pavel Kubina to the Flyers for a conditional 2nd round pick (either this draft or 2013), a 4th round pick and a John Kalinski. 

What a John Kalinski looks like.

Mr. Yzerman turned two unrestricted free agents into three draft picks and a fringe prospect.  That isn’t too shabby. I like Kubina, but he doesn’t fit the defensive mold that he and Coach Boucher have been looking for in their two seasons in Tampa Bay.  If you take a look at who’ve they’ve brought in they’ve all been younger, puck-moving defensemen.  The only exception left on the roster right now is Brett Clark, and not to foreshadow the rest of the column, I wonder if he’ll still be here in a week.

What hasn’t been mentioned too much in the press about these moves, is that the Lightning saved a little over $1 million in real salary.  Even with owner Jeff Vinik raising the team’s payroll over the last two seasons, they still have to be careful with their money.

 Attendance has been steady this year despite the team’s struggles (ESPN has them ranked 13th in home attendance averaging 18,334 fans per contest).  With a notorious fickle fan base, throwing in the towel could see a drop in fans showing up which could hurt the team financially.  Saving a little bit of money while stocking future assets is a win/win for the organization.

I’ve thought for awhile that this team hasn’t performed to the level of a playoff team.  Even if they do leapfrog the teams in front of them, they still look like first round fodder for the Rangers or Flyers.  Even with the better play of late they’re struggling to make up ground.  It seems when they win, so does everyone else around them. 

With the team winning twice since Mr. Yzerman began his team transformation he has backed off his fire-sale mentality and said that he’ll let the team on the ice play out the year.  Which to me means, he doesn’t have anything pending and if nothing pops up he has no problem waiting till the summer to finish refurbishing the squad.

However, I don’t think he’s ignoring the phone.  Kubina and Moore were probably the top two assets on his trade list, but that doesn’t mean he is currently out of bullets.  From surfing the web and seeing what other teams are looking for, here are the players that I think could still move:

-          Adam Hall – a solid defensive center with face-off skills. He could fill a role a roll for a team looking for depth.

-          Brett Clark – he’s not flashy, but he blocks a lot of shots and can fill in on the power play occasionally.

-          Ryan Malone – the name drawing the most chatter, but I think his health history might keep some teams away.

-          Mathieu Garon – my dark horse trade candidate.  Say the Kings move Jonathon Bernier for offense, it wouldn’t be impossible to think they might pick up Garon as insurance against injury.

Overall, I think the trade deadline will be quiet this year due to two factors.  One, so many teams are in contention there aren’t that many big name potential free agents available.  Secondly, with an uncertain future in regards to the CBA, GM’s might be wary of taking on a long term contract.

I’ll still be following along, trying to weed out the fake twitter accounts (hint, check number of followers and previous tweets) and reading between the lines. 
Your Steve Downie Photo of theWeek - Steve Downie Goal Scorer


Fuji said...

As a Sharks fan... I'm curious. What's your opinion of Dominic Moore? Did Lightning fans like him?

Justin G. said...

Moore is a solid 3rd/4th line player. He can play the wing or center. Pretty good forechecker who will chip in a goal here and there (the 18 he scored last year was a bit of an aberration).

Fans liked him and there are some whispers that they might try to sign him again in the off-season.

Fuji said...

Thanks... hopefully he helps the Sharks make a strong playoff push towards the end of the season.