At 2:59 A.M. on Mar. 1, 2015 the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Philadelphia Flyers. For Coburn, the Lightning sent Philadelphia a 1st and 3rd round pick in the 2015 draft along with defenseman Radko Gudas. Then Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made this late night acquisition in order to add a veteran presence to a young playoff-bound team. At the time, the Lightning featured a roster composed of players whose primary playoff experience was being swept out by the Montreal Canadiens one year prior.
Even though the Lightning had multiple first and third-round picks in the 2015 draft, and received two 2nd round picks from the Boston Bruins for Brett Connolly that same evening, this trade received mixed reactions from fans. While Coburn was a proven veteran, he was far from a flashy player statistically. He had only one goal and nine assists during the 2014-15 and really lacked that wow factor for what the Lightning gave up.
Coburn Paid off for the Lightning
Despite Coburn being injured shortly after the Lightning acquired him, he was able to return for their first round match-up versus the Detroit Red Wings. In this series, he went on to score the winning goal in Game Seven, a moment that will forever be remembered in the Lightning’s history. While this goal alone made the steep cost of acquiring Coburn worth it, he went on to be an important role player throughout the playoffs. While playing on the second defensive pairing with Jason Garrison, he took on close to 17 minutes a night as Tampa Bay fought their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
After the playoffs ended, part two of the Coburn trade came to fruition. A major reason why Yzerman traded for him instead of other options at the deadline was due to his being under contract for the 2015-16 season. This made him more than an expensive playoff rental, allowing the Lightning to build around the veteran for one more year.
As per the course, Coburn played a consistent but unexciting veteran role with the Lightning throughout the season. In late February, less than a year after trading for him, the Lightning re-signed Coburn to a 3-year extension through 2018-19. This contract carried a $3.7 million cap-hit, giving the Lightning a reasonably affordable veteran on their blue line for three more seasons.
Coburn Was the Perfect Yzerman Trade
After taking over as the Lightning’s GM in 2010, Yzerman made one thing consistently clear: play for the now while building for the future. He rarely gave up future assets for short-term gain. When he did give up these resources, it was either for a player with a year left on his contract, or someone he wanted to pursue in free-agency anyways.
The Coburn trade was the perfect example of Yzerman’s plan in motion. First, he only gave up futures that he had a surplus of. Even if you don’t take the Connolly trade into account, which Yzerman said was a lynchpin of the acquisition, the Lightning still had a pick in every round of the 2015 draft after the trade was made. So, by managing his resources properly at the start of the year, Yzerman set himself up for a big trade at the deadline without forgoing the future.
Four Years Later, Where Are the Lightning Now?
In retrospect, we can look back and see just how well this trade worked out for the Lightning in the long term. Starting off with the biggest piece, Coburn became an important part of the blue line over the last four and a half seasons. While he has found himself taking on a reduced role on the third line this season, he still has been a reasonably solid player most nights.
Even though the Lightning gave up two high draft picks in this trade, their prospect pool wasn’t worse for the wear, either. By trading Connolly for second-round picks in 2015 and 2016, Yzerman gave himself plenty of room to make deals at the draft. This allowed the 2015 draft class to produce some of the best prospects currently for the organization, including Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph.
While it is impossible to know how much the Lightning could have benefited from two more high draft picks in 2015, they didn’t necessarily need them. By acquiring Coburn and having a fantastic 2015 draft, Tampa Bay got the veteran defenseman they needed while also restocking their prospect pipeline for the future.
So, as they say, Yzerman managed to both have his cake and eat it too.