With the 2020 NHL trade deadline just days away, the Tampa Bay Lightning have already been big spenders. After acquiring Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils, the Lightning parted ways with top-prospect Nolan Foote and the first-round draft pick that they acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the 2019 offseason.
By adding Coleman, not only for a 2020 playoff run but also the 2020-21 season, the Lightning improved in an area of need without parting with any of their top AHL players, while still retaining their own first-round pick at the 2020 Draft.
As a result, Tampa Bay still has assets to swing one more trade before the deadline should general manager Julien BriseBois feel it’s necessary. A trade wouldn’t need to break the bank, as it did with Coleman, but could help shore-up the Lightning’s one area of concern: defense.
Injuries Pushing Defensive Needs for Lightning
At the beginning of the month, two of the Lightning’s top-four defensemen suffered long-term injuries with both Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta considered ‘week to week.’ While they should return before the end of the season, there is always risk involved when a player returns right before the playoffs.
For instance, if either defenseman takes longer to heal than expected or if they re-aggravate their injury right before the postseason, then the Lightning would be down a key d-man during the toughest stretch of the season. Even if the organization has some depth at the position, it might be a good idea to bring in a player with NHL experience rather than trust a relative unknown ahead of a deep playoff run.
Defensemen Selling Quickly at the Deadline
Defensemen are a commodity at the deadline which drives up the price, even for a rental. Due to a rash of injuries to d-men across the league, however, those who are available are being snapped up days before the deadline expires.
With players like Dylan DeMelo, Andy Greene and Brenden Dillon already on the move, the market has gone from plenty of options to a limited pool with a few big fish still in the pond.
If the Lightning want to pick up a rental defenseman who won’t break the bank, then they will need to move quickly. At this rate, if they wait until deadline day, they will likely have to part ways with their 2020 first-rounder to bring back a player of any significance.
Options the Lightning Could Target
A few names stand out among players still available that the Lightning could target and who shouldn’t cost more than a second or third-round draft pick.
Related: 2 Low-Risk Deadline Additions
First off, from the Detroit Red Wings is Mike Green. While he’s having a bad season, statistically, it may be the effect of playing on a bad team. He could be a fit for Tampa Bay due to his ability to play roughly 17 to 20 minutes each night on the right side, a position that has been hit hardest by injury.
Another rental option could be Erik Gustafsson if the Chicago Blackhawks decided to sell. Unlike Green, Gustafsson has had a rather productive season and could fetch a bigger return. However, with an easy-to-digest $1.2 million cap hit, he is a rental worth spending more on in order to help the Lightning’s injured defense.
Lightning Need a Shrewd Defensive Addition
If Tampa Bay had managed to stay healthy, there would be no real need to add a defenseman at the 2020 deadline. However, with injuries sprouting up, it may now be a necessary move.
This doesn’t mean that BriseBois should go crazy, of course. If he can bring on an insurance defenseman without giving up too much, it will be worth it for the Lightning come playoff season.
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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.