Over the Tampa Bay Lightning’s near 30-year history, the franchise didn’t consistently enter the trade deadline as buyers until recently. However, when the Lightning have added players for a postseason push, they haven’t been shy about making a big splash to secure the right people for the job. So, what are the three best deadlines for the Lightning when they were adding talent for the playoffs?
2020 Deadline Shaped the Lightning Into Stanley Cup Champions
Following their gutting first-round exit in the 2019 Playoffs, it was clear that the Lightning needed to become more of a resilient team if they ever wanted to break through and win a Stanley Cup. One year after standing pat at the trade deadline with a team that looked unbeatable, general manager Julien BriseBois took a different and far more aggressive approach in 2020.
First, he traded top prospect, Nolan Foote, along with a 2020 first-round pick to the New Jersey Devils for Blake Coleman about two weeks before the actual deadline. He followed that by signing defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year deal after his contract was terminated by the Buffalo Sabres, effectively adding a veteran defenseman for nothing.
Finally, BriseBois pulled off a last-second deal to acquire Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 third-round pick from the San Jose Sharks for a 2020 first-rounder and prospect Anthony Greco.
With this high-risk, high-reward approach, BriseBois managed to hit on all of these deals. Coleman and Goodrow flourished with the team and took on significant ice-time in the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup victories, where Bogosian acted as the perfect veteran defenseman for the 2020 run and rejoined the team in 2021 on a three-year deal to try and continue this success.
Even if the Lightning were a highly talented team before the 2020 trade deadline, it can’t be denied that something was missing. Coleman, Bogosian, and Goodrow brought that perfect edge to the team, and with their play, left a mark on the franchise that will never be forgotten.
2004 Brought Tampa Bay a Needed Defenseman in Sydor
Despite struggling as an expansion franchise throughout the 1990s, the Lightning eventually built a core of young talent that looked ready to make a deep postseason run after winning their first playoff series in 2003. Seeing that success, Tampa Bay made a measured trade before the 2004 deadline to acquire defenseman Darryl Sydor and a 2004 4th-round pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Alexander Svitov and a 2004 4th-rounder.
Even if Sydor wasn’t a blockbuster acquisition at the time, there’s no denying his impact on the franchise. Throughout the 2004 playoffs, he played 23 games, averaged nearly 22 minutes of ice-time each night, which was the fourth-highest for the team, chipped in six points, and brought with him a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree from his 1999 run with the Dallas Stars.
Without Sydor, it’s impossible to know if the Lightning’s defensive corps would have been strong enough to make it through the rigors of a long playoff push. His play wasn’t always flashy, but it was necessary for Tampa Bay to go from being a fringe contender to a champion, and for that, this deadline deal will forever be important to the franchise.
2018 McDonagh and Miller Blockbuster Secured the Lightning’s Future
Heading into the 2018 Trade Deadline, it was clear that the Lightning wanted to improve upon their already strong core. Then general manager Steve Yzerman had built a contender, but the roster still needed a little bit more talent to potentially push it over the top.
With rumors swirling about Tampa Bay going all-in on a deal for the likes of Erik Karlsson, instead, Yzerman took a different route, swinging a blockbuster trade with the New York Rangers for defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller. This deal was expensive for the Lightning, as they sent top-six forward Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Libor Hajek, and Brett Howden, a first-round pick in 2018 and a conditional 2019 second-round pick to New York.
At the moment this trade looked good for the Lightning, but it had a lot of room for things to go drastically wrong. For one, McDonagh was dealing with injuries throughout 2017-18 that had limited his play, and there was no telling if Miller would find his place on the lineup. Also, when you give up that many high-upside assets in a deal, it’s likely that at least one or two of them will develop into something meaningful.
Four years later, the trade is looking like a bit of a coup for the Lightning. Miller played well for the team and was eventually traded to the Vancouver Canucks at top value of a 2020 first-round pick, a 2019 third, and goaltender Marek Mazanec. For his part, McDonagh has been a perfect blueliner for the team, averaging more than 20 minutes of playing time each night while being a postseason monster that helped the franchise win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
On the other hand, the Ranger’s return in the trade has been less than inspiring. To get the full breakdown from the Blueshirts’ perspective, check out Tom Castro’s article: Rangers’ Disastrous 2018 Trade With Lightning Could Get Worse, where he said:
Thankfully for the Blueshirts, this trade didn’t set the tone for their teardown, which has been largely successful and borne fruit in the form of a 31-13-4 record as they look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Yet that trade has proven to be so lopsided, the club is still acutely feeling the effects – and, even worse, could put itself in position to continue doing so well into the future.Tom Castro – THW
Lightning Secured Championships at the Deadline
Throughout their history, when the Lightning have been buyers at the trade deadline, they often managed to bring in the right players to help push the team to a Stanley Cup Championship, whether it was a blockbuster deal or a relatively small addition to help fix part of the roster.
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Ultimately, the reason why a general manager goes out and makes a deadline trade is to win a championship, no matter the cost. So, even if some of these deals cost the Lightning a good bit of futures, it ended up being worthwhile as the franchise claimed three championships on the backs of these players.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.