As the Tampa Bay Lightning approached the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, they found themselves in an enviable position. After ripping through the first half of the season, they were far and away at the top of the NHL standings, with the only real uncertainty being whether or not they could break the 62-win mark for only the third time in history.
The Lightning’s roster was hitting on all cylinders, with scoring coming in bunches and their defensive corps looking unstoppable with Ryan McDonagh settling into his role with the franchise after his acquisition at the 2018 deadline.
So, due to a combination of organizational depth and spending big at the 2018 deadline, the Lightning sat out the 2019 trade deadline completely. In his first deadline as general manager, Julien BriseBois stood pat, trusting the lineup that got them to first in the league to carry them throughout the playoffs.
Lightning Can’t Stand Pat at the 2020 Deadline
While the Lightning find themselves in a less golden position heading into the 2020 trade deadline, they are still prominent playoff contenders. Much like in 2019, the franchise is flush with talent on both offense and defense, causing starting-caliber players to sit on the bench as new faces force their way into the lineup.
With so much talent already on their roster, it would be easy to think that the Lightning should stand pat once again at the 2020 trade deadline. After all, they have a solid mix of veteran talent that has seen everything in the playoffs and youth who are still experiencing what the NHL has to offer.
However, making no tweaks to their roster would be a mistake heading into the 2020 playoffs. See, the Lightning look great on paper right now, but there are areas that could sink the franchise if injuries were to occur. For example, if Andrei Vasilevskiy were to suffer a long-term injury, there really isn’t anyone who could split starting duties as Tampa Bay lacks any meaningful goaltending depth right now behind Curtis McElhinney.
Where Should the Lightning Look to Add?
Out of all of their needs, the Lightning should focus on adding a depth goaltender to the franchise and potentially a top-nine winger. While the goaltending option would just be for a worst-case scenario situation, a top-nine forward may be more pressing of an issue than one may think.
See, while Tampa Bay are consistently one of the top-scoring teams in the NHL, much of their depth is incredibly streaky. Throughout their careers, veteran players like Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat have shown stretches of brilliant play, but they then follow that up with silence on the scoresheet.
Also, the Lightning are relying on a lot of young talent who have little to no playoff experience this season. So, while these rookies are playing well in the regular season, the postseason may be a bit too much for them to handle, causing their stellar play to slip.
By adding a top-nine forward, the Lightning would give themselves another option should their regular starters struggle heading into the playoffs.
Small Moves Could Help Lightning Over Hump
Now it’s important to note that the Lightning shouldn’t be looking to trade either of their 2020 first-round picks at the deadline for a rental. Those picks have a lot of value right now, and trading either should be reserved for only the perfect scenario.
Related: Checking in on the Struggling Crunch
By giving up some of their mid-range picks or prospects, they may be able to add a small piece or two that could shore up a few questions for the franchise. Sure, these additions may be as a just-in-case, but they can still be valuable to the team if they can make a push for the Stanley Cup.
The only real mistake for the Lightning would be doing nothing. Yes, nothing would be safe, but sometimes it is a small move that you don’t expect that can pay the biggest dividends in the playoffs.
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.