Whenever the trade deadline is approaching, it is common to see a player on a selling team getting connected to seemingly random teams who could be bulking up for the postseason. One such name is Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who is in the midst of a career season while playing for the bottom-dwelling Ottawa Senators.
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Any trade talk around Pageau is warranted, as he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season. With 21 goals this year and a $3.1 million cap hit, he could be a prime piece for any franchise currently in need of center depth who won’t break the cap.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning gearing up for a run at redemption in the 2020 playoffs, this begs the question: would Pageau be a good fit with the Bolts?
Lightning in Sudden Need for Center Depth?
Under normal circumstances, the Lightning wouldn’t need to consider trading for a centerman at the deadline, as the franchise has been flush with talent at the position for years. Between Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, and Yanni Gourde, the Lightning looked set at center for the playoffs.
This was, however, before a rash of injuries struck the team. Throughout the month of February, Tampa Bay lost both Stamkos and Cirelli to injury in less than a week’s time.
While these injuries should be resolved before the playoffs, it does raise the question of whether or not the franchise should add a player like Pageau before the deadline. Injuries can be weird after all, and replacing two starting centermen for any length of time will test even the best depth in the NHL.
Pageau’s Cost Likely Outweighs Benefits
Given the fact that he has already broken 20 goals this season, one can expect the Senators to demand a premium return for Pageau. This will likely include a top-pick and/or a prospect that could fight for ice-time in Ottawa throughout the rest of the 2019-20 season.
Even if the Lightning are flush with draft picks and tradeable talent, however, it may not make sense to move that talent for a pure rental. With the 2020 draft seen as one of the deepest in years, having two first-round selections (assuming the Vancouver Canucks make the playoffs) opens up a lot of opportunity for general manager Julien BriseBois to maneuver on the draft floor.
Those draft-day deals can help set the future of the franchise, similar to how Tampa Bay stashed young talent in 2015 that is now helping to define who the Lightning are in 2020. Sometimes small moves, like trading a late first-round pick for two additional picks, can net players that offer more than any rental.
Barring Long-Term Injury, Lightning Shouldn’t Acquire Pageau
Right now, the Lightning find themselves in an if/then situation for acquiring a player like Pageau. If the injuries to Cirelli and Stamkos are going to be long-term, then the franchise should consider trading for a replacement just in case complications slow down their return.
If both players look to be ready by March, then there really is no reason to give up picks and prospects for a depth centerman on a team already flush with talent at that position. While it wouldn’t hurt to add some depth, it isn’t worth giving up a prime pick for that luxury.
So, if you are a Lightning fan, all you can do is hope that the injury bug passes over without a long-term impact. If it does, things should be fine for Tampa Bay heading into playoff season without the need for Pageau.
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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.