With the NHL trade deadline now just days away, the Tampa Bay Lightning already made one of the biggest trades of the season. They gave up top-prospect Nolan Foote and the Vancouver Canucks’ 2020 first-round selection for Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils. With this trade, the Lightning gave up two key assets, meaning that likely are done making big splashes at the deadline.
While they may be done buying at the deadline, that doesn’t mean that trade speculation will stop. It is always fun to think about the “What Ifs” for a franchise, after all — especially for a team as well built as the Lightning.
Before we discuss these impossibilities, let’s lay down some ground rules. First, players in consideration have to actually be available at the deadline, so there will be no Connor McDavid speculation. Second, this would be in a cap-free world, where the Lightning could pick up anyone they wanted, regardless of their pay scale.
So, what are some impossible trades that would take the already dominant Lightning from being a Stanley Cup contender to being the best team in the league, bar none?
Let’s just take a step back for a moment and imagine what the Lightning would look like if the team went out and acquired Mathew Dumba. For a team that seemingly has everything, he would fill one void that the franchise has struggled with for years — a consistent partner for Victor Hedman.
With Dumba in the lineup, the Lightning’s top-six defensemen would feature pairings of Hedman-Dumba, Ryan McDonagh-Erik Cernak and Kevin Shattenkirk-Mikhail Sergachev. That is a truly elite unit with some of the best offensive and defensive talent in the NHL.
Even if the Lightning had the cap-space to support Dumba, this trade would never happen due to the premium return the Minnesota Wild would want for one of their top defensemen. However, it is fun to think about what could be if things went a completely different way at the deadline.
Given the Lightning’s history of trades with the New York Rangers over the last decade, it wouldn’t have been a big shock for Chris Kreider to join the team for a playoff run. Kreider is, of course, the biggest fish in the deadline pond, so any team would be happy to land his services, even as a rental.
If the Lightning hadn’t acquired Coleman, then landing Kreider would have been an even bigger deadline deal. However, he still brings an offensive pop, meaning that he would likely slot into Tampa Bay’s top-six, maybe even alongside Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on the top line.
Would Kreider make the Lightning an unstoppable force? Maybe. But his addition would definitely give the franchise one more high-end talent that could help swing a series in their favor — something that can never be underestimated on a Stanley Cup run.
Either way, Kreider will likely either return a king’s ransom for New York, or he will be re-signed by the Rangers, which will keep him far away from Tampa Bay.
Similar to the theory behind a Dumba trade, Josh Manson would give the Lightning a true defensive stalwart to pair alongside Hedman, potentially for years to come. In many ways, Manson could be the exact type of player that the franchise needs — someone who won’t dazzle offensively but will help shut down the opposition.
As said best by CJ Woodling of anaheimcalling.com:
He is right in the middle of his prime production years, has playoff experience, currently serves as an alternate captain, is a right handed shot, and has two seasons remaining on a reasonable $4.1 million contract.
Every part of that description sounds appealing for the Lightning right now. The franchise has plenty of offensive talent on their blue line already, so adding a defensive-first player wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Of course, Manson would command a premium return, likely multiple picks and/or prospects to get the conversation started. This immediately pushes any thought of a trade out of the realm of possibility, barring a sudden change of deadline philosophy from the Lightning.
Lightning Already Have Their Playoff Roster
While it may be fun to think about players the Lightning could acquire, they likely already have their roster set for the coming playoffs. Between the addition of Coleman and a few key defensemen returning from injury, Tampa Bay looks primed to make a deep run in the postseason.
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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.