Heading into the 2020 NHL trade deadline, it was clear that the Tampa Bay Lightning would be buyers. With a stockpile of draft capital and a playoff position all but locked in, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois had the pieces in place to make a big splash.
What BriseBois should trade for was debated, of course, but most agreed that the Lightning needed some help on defense more than anything else. With recent injuries to Jan Ruuta and Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay’s blue line was looking like more of a liability than a strength.
While BriseBois would go on to make a few big trades by the deadline, he wouldn’t add on defense. Instead, he went bargain hunting, signing free-agent Zach Bogosian to a one-year, $1.3 million contract on February 23rd.
At the time, this signing was seen as nothing more than, at best, a small depth move for the Lightning. Bogosian had been struggling with injury in recent years and had just been bought out by the Buffalo Sabres.
As said by Brandon Share-Cohen of THW:
It’s been a tumultuous season for the veteran defender. Starting the season on the injured reserve and struggling to remain in the lineup, being made a healthy scratch in each of the Sabres final eight games prior to his placement on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the AHL.
Nobody thought he could be an answer for the Lightning at the time of the signing. So far throughout the 2020 NHL playoffs, however, Bogosian has been playing an important role on the Bolts’ blue line.
Bogosian Finding His Role With Lightning
In 11 postseason games with the Lightning, Bogosian has been finding success playing in a limited, controlled role. While he is skating with Victor Hedman in the Lightning’s top-four, he isn’t being asked to take on more minutes than he can handle each night.
When you take out the Lightning’s 5OT Game 1 epic against the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he skated roughly 45 minutes, Bogosian is averaging roughly 16 minutes of ice time each night. This is down a considerable amount compared to the 21 minutes he was taking on with Buffalo throughout the 2018-19 season.
In this limited role, Bogosian is excelling. Yes, this is partially due to playing with one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL, but he has been making the right choices at the right time. For example, you can look at the move he made to set up Blake Coleman’s tying goal in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins.
This sort of skating is only done by a confident player who is feeling his game. Right now, Bogosian understands what his role is with the Lightning, and they are benefiting from his confidence as injury strikes the franchise.
Lightning Made a Deadline Deal Without Trading Anything
Easily the best part of Bogosian is the fact that the Lightning essentially made a deadline deal without giving up any future assets. Given the market for defensemen, Tampa Bay would have likely needed to trade at least a fourth or a third-round pick for his services.
However, by taking a chance on a maligned player, they got that veteran, depth piece they needed without losing anything of value. This let BriseBois use some of his draft capital to take another swing at the deadline, adding Barclay Goodrow to the roster.
While the Lightning could have still traded for a veteran defenseman and Goodrow, it really hasn’t been part of BriseBois’ plan to give up mid-level picks for mid-level players. He would rather take a chance on a player like Bogosian, and give up a first-rounder to bring back someone who will make an impact like Goodrow.
Lightning Got a Needed Win With Bogosian
Even if you were not a fan of the signing at the moment, you have to be satisfied now with how Bogosian is performing in his first postseason experience. In 11 games, he has posted 4 points and doesn’t look out of place at all under the bright lights.
Sure he hasn’t been perfect, but his play has been good enough to fill in the gaps for the Lightning. Given where they are at as a franchise, that was more than they could have asked for from a player who was signed as a mid-season depth gamble.
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.