As the 2021-22 NHL season approaches the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in a bit of a tight spot. Despite being one of the best teams in the league, they have dealt with some struggles throughout a long road trip that took them across Canada for the first time in years and ended in Seattle for the first time in franchise history. Throughout this trip, they experienced a three-game losing streak and often looked a step behind their normally pristine play.
Sometimes, these struggles can be a bit of a blessing in disguise, as they can expose issues that can be addressed at the trade deadline. However, with approximately $0 in cap space available, the Lightning simply don’t have the means to go out and make a big splash on the trade market, even if they are able to recognize their shortcomings.
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Despite this, it’s still an interesting conversation to look at the players who are potentially available at the trade deadline to see who could make the biggest impact for the Lightning, as this not only exposes some of their organizational weaknesses but can also help you understand many of their strengths as well.
Fleury Would Provide a Reliable Backup for Vasilevskiy
If there’s one area where the Lightning can feel confident in, it is their starting goaltender. Over the last few seasons, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL throughout the regular and postseason. In 2020 and 2021, he started every playoff game for Tampa Bay en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, with his heroics on the ice earning him the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy.
Behind him, however, is Brian Elliot, an established goaltender who has been good enough for Tampa Bay in the regular season, but likely won’t see a start in the playoffs. So, to put it simply, the Lightning are going to be fully reliant on Vasilevksiy if they hope to win their third-straight Stanley Cup.
When looking at the trade market, Marc-Andre Fleury is the prize goaltender that any team would love to have on their roster. Despite his age, he is still putting up fantastic performances behind a mediocre to bad Chicago Blackhawks team and he is coming off a Vezina winning season in 2020-21, where he beat out Vasilevskiy for the award.
Goaltenders of his caliber are rarely on the trade market this time of the season, and in a world with no cap, he would be the best-case scenario backup option for a long postseason run. However, given his $7 million cap hit, there is simply no way that the Lightning would be able to acquire him this deadline without significant changes being made to their roster, which shouldn’t happen mid-season.
Giordano Could Be a Dominant Veteran Defenseman in Tampa Bay
Next on the Lightning’s wish list is veteran defenseman Mark Giordano. After spending 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames, the 2019 Norris Winner was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft and then named their first captain in team history. Despite these honors, Giordano has struggled alongside the fledgling Kraken throughout 2021-22, and the window has been left open for him to be traded for a significant return.
Much like Fleury, Giordano would be a luxury add for the Lightning, whose defensive corps is already one of the best in the league when healthy (especially on the left side where he plays.)
However, when it comes to the postseason, a franchise can never have too much talent in their defensive corps. A player like Giordano would be a leader both on and off the ice, and could really flourish in a reduced role on their bottom-pairing. Plus, if injury struck one of their stars, he would easily slot into their role on the blue line, taking on big minutes despite his age.
Once again, this all comes down to money and need. Even if the Lightning could afford him, Giordano would be pure excess in their defensive corps. However, while they have other areas that could be improved upon first, it would be a lot of fun to see him on the ice behind the likes of Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh.
DeBrusk Would Add a New Forward Threat to the Lightning
When looking at the Lightning’s forward corps, there really isn’t much room for improvement. Their top-six is absolutely loaded with proven offensive talent, where their bottom-six has that perfect mix of resurgent veterans who can grind out a win and youth that play with unabashed intensity every time their feet touch the ice. Despite this, there is one forward that recently requested a trade that would likely interest the Lightning: Jake DeBrusk.
While DeBrusk may not be the biggest forward or the most explosive offensively, he still would bring a lot to Tampa Bay on the ice. In a sheltered bottom-six role, he could add that perfect offensive touch that you need to win games in the postseason. Plus, if injury struck in the top-six, he could be moved up the lineup to try and take on a bigger role with the franchise.
The reasons why this trade won’t happen are simple. Not only is Debrusk making more than $0 this season, but he also plays for the Lightning’s Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Bruins. Given that they could be facing off in the 2022 postseason, Boston wouldn’t be keen to make a trade that would not only weaken their team but improve a rival.
Lightning’s Dream Trades Shows Their Lack of Needs
While creating a list of the Lightning’s dream deadline trades, it really showcases how well built the team is right now. Given the players they lost in the 2021 offseason, they did an incredible job reloading their roster with talent that can compete for a Stanley Cup once again. Sure, it would be nice to add a luxury player like Fleury, Giordano, or DeBrusk, but it’s not going to break the team if they can’t.
So, while it will likely be a boring trade deadline, that is the sign of how the Lightning got it right with their offseason additions. This will allow them to avoid overpaying at the deadline to finagle the cap, which is a big win for a team that has gone all-in for two straight seasons and has few future assets to trade in 2022.
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.