Lightning Break the Bank As BriseBois Stays Aggressive At Deadline

It’s easy to be wrong, but it’s difficult to be as wrong as I have been over the last week leading into the trade deadline. When it was announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning were making a trade to acquire David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets, my first thought was simply… how? Literally a day earlier, I said that Savard was the exact perfect piece for general manager Julien BriseBois to add to his roster, but the move would be impossible due to cap complacency and the upcoming expansion draft.

Now I’m staring at the Lightning’s roster, excitedly slotting Savard next to Victor Hedman for a 2021 playoff run. In theory, it makes no sense, as Tampa Bay has almost no cap space, but with the power of a few draft picks, BriseBois managed to make the move work.

The trade itself is a work of art, involving three teams and an emphasis on the order of operations. To pry Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay sent them a 2021 first-round pick, as well as a 2022 third-rounder so they would retain half of his salary. Before being sent to Tampa Bay, though, he had to make a layover with the Detroit Red Wings, where he picked up Brian Lashoff and left a 2021 fourth-round pick along with a quarter of his remaining salary.

This left the Lightning with Lashoff and Savard at a significantly reduced $1.0625 million cap-hit.

David Savard Columbus Blue Jackets
Through a complicated series of trades, the Tampa Bay Lightning managed to land David Savard before the 2021 trade deadline. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yes, everything in that move is legal, even if on paper it may look a bit iffy. The way BriseBois was able to pull off this move showcases his ability to work every aspect of the cap and his willingness to throw caution to the wind and spend big to get the right piece at the deadline.

Lightning Taking Risks to Win Big at Trade Deadline

It’s easy to call deadline deals in retrospect a victory, but the Lightning’s 2020 trade deadline was exactly that. BriseBois saw two players who were available that would make his team a more complete Stanley Cup threat, and he did everything in his power to acquire them. This included not only giving up a top prospect but two first-round picks in a draft that was considered very deep by any standard.

If the Lightning had failed to win the Stanley Cup in 2020, these moves would have been questioned for years as players selected with those picks advanced their careers and eventually blossomed into the NHL. However, with a Cup in hand, the success of these prospects carries a different weight, as it’s hard to be upset about what could have been when what was already is the best-case scenario.

This appears to be the same mindset BriseBois took when he struck up this deal for Savard. There was a glaring hole on defense for Tampa Bay, and when he saw a possibility to acquire what appeared to be the best player available to fill that gap, he did whatever it took to make that move happen.

Julien Brisebois Tampa Bay Lightning
While his tenure as general manager of the Lightning has been relatively short, Julien Brisebois has already left a meaningful mark on the franchise. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s a risky move, but it’s the kind of risky move that you have to respect, as it is equal parts impressive as it is mad. There’s a lot of room for failure in trade involving so many future assets, but if it is successful, it will be another defining moment for not only the franchise, but for BriseBois as a general manager.

BriseBois Taking Hold of His Lightning Legacy

When the Lightning were tearing through the league back in 2019, BriseBois chose to play it safe during his first trade deadline and kept a tight grip on his future assets instead of adding to his already strong roster. This plan ultimately backfired, and he seemingly took this failure to heart.

BriseBois is no longer preparing for the future. He is looking at his roster, which includes some of the top talents in the entire NHL, and is saying that it is one piece away from being the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

If he is right, then the price of acquiring Savard will be quickly forgotten. And, if he is wrong, you still have to respect his audacity to make these bold moves. As a fan of the franchise, I know I would rather see the Lightning take a chance at the deadline instead of always trying to balance the future and the present. Don’t get me wrong, planning for the future is important, but there is an opportunity to win right now, which Tampa Bay appears to be ready to grasp.