Whenever you make a trade in any sport, there is an inherent risk involved. Giving up future assets for a player that can help you now is far from an exact science, as anything from an injury to just a lack of chemistry can keep that player from fitting in with your roster. Then, those assets you traded could turn into the next star, while your acquisition may be gone after a year or so.
Related: The Worst Trades in NHL History
One year after he stood pat on trade deadline day, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois decided that it was time to take a chance on the market. He made one of the biggest splashes a week before the deadline, sending a 2020 first-round pick and 2019 first-round pick Nolan Foote to the New Jersey Devils for veteran forward Blake Coleman.
At the moment, this trade made a lot of sense for Tampa Bay, even if it carried a premium price tag. Despite being a Stanley Cup contender, they were a team flush with draft capital that could be spent on that right piece. As a defensively sound forward who scored 20 goals in 2019-20, Coleman had the skillset to help push the Lightning over the top.
Now, after advancing to the 2020 Eastern Conference Final, we have seen Coleman take on 13 postseason games in a Lightning sweater. So, has the trade been worth it for the Bolts so far?
What the Lightning Got in Coleman
When it comes to finding success in the NHL playoffs, your roster needs players who can bring a little bit of everything, from offensive skill to defensive grit. For the Lightning, Coleman has been one of those swiss-army knife players that they desperately needed to take that next step.
In 13 games, he has posted three goals and seven points while averaging roughly 18 minutes of playing time each night. While these numbers are solid, he has been setting himself apart in other aspects of the game.
Not only is he tied for first in hits with 56, but his six takeaways are amongst the best with the Lightning. Also, he is a special teams fixture, averaging close to two minutes of ice-time on the penalty kill along with one and a half minutes on the man advantage.
Most importantly, when he is playing on the third-line alongside Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde, they form, arguably, the Lightning’s best line this postseason. Those three players are tenacious on the puck, refusing to give the opponents any chance to breathe while creating great scoring opportunities.
The only real knock against Coleman is the fact that he has taken the most penalties for the Lightning so far (by a wide margin). However, he has also drawn the most, so you can chalk that up to him just always mixing it up when he is on the ice.
What the Lightning Gave up for Coleman
Of course, for a premium player like Coleman, the Lightning had to pay a premium price. First and foremost was Foote, the 27th overall pick at the 2019 Draft. While he was seen as a slight reach when he was selected, Foote quickly showcased why Tampa Bay didn’t wait to take him.
As the captain of the Kelowna Rockets, he posted 15 goals and 33 points in 27 games this year, along with another five points in seven games for Team Canada as they would go on to win gold in the 2020 World Junior Championships. He was developing quickly and should be a great forward for the Devils in just a few short years.
The first-round pick, which was acquired in a 2019 trade with the Vancouver Canucks, ultimately ended up being in the early 20s as the Canucks made a run to Round 2 of the 2020 playoffs. While this pick still has great value, it wasn’t the best-case scenario, as there was a chance that it could have become an unprotected first-rounder in 2021 if Vancouver missed the playoffs this year.
Lightning Happy With the Coleman Trade So Far
Ultimately, when you look at what the Lightning gave up for Coleman, the price was steep but worthwhile. During this one playoff run alone, he has been a difference-maker on the ice, acting as one of the engines driving play.
When you consider the fact that he is signed through the 2020-21 season at a reasonable $1.8 million cap hit, this trade looks even better, as he wasn’t just a rental for this postseason.
Yes, having Foote and that first-round pick would still be nice, but BriseBois made a smart gamble when he traded for Coleman. He got the exact kind of player the Lightning needed to take that next step in the playoffs while having some cap flexibility for the 2020-21 season.
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.