For Tampa Bay Lightning fans, it’s been a long year. Starting with Steven Stamkos’s injury in November, the Lightning have faced a list of injuries as long as the wait for bathrooms in Amalie Stadium. That includes recent injuries to Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestikov.
Because of all these injuries, and the Lightning falling out of the playoffs, it may be hard for fans to be optimistic. Especially considering that at the deadline, Steve Yzerman was a seller. The team sold off Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula and goaltender Ben Bishop. They also traded for, and then traded away, Mark Streit.
With this information, it might be hard to rationalize the “Yzerplan”, Yzerman’s road for the Lightning to win the Cup. As GM he has brought the team to the Stanley Cup Finals and has put together a talented team that fits just under the cap. But what does this year’s team mean for the future of the Lightning?
Throughout this season, the Lightning have encountered many obstacles. Chief among them has been the injury bug, which has swept through the Lightning like a swarm of locusts, picking off player after player.
Since the beginning of the year, the following players have had injuries: Jonathon Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette, Vladislav Namestikov, Ryan Callahan, Ondrej Palat, Michael Bournival, Victor Hedman, J.T. Brown, Braydon Coburn, Jason Garrison, Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman and Nikita Kucherov. That’s according to Fox Sports.
Those injuries have cost the Lightning not only valuable players like Callahan, who’s been out since January, and Stamkos, out since November, but also games. If the Lightning had remained healthy, there is a good chance that they would have many more wins this season. They wouldn’t be 3 points out of the playoffs with 15 games left to play. That’s where they currently sit.
The injury bug has hit every part of the Lightning’s roster, and there simply hasn’t been enough to make up for it. But that’s not the fault of Yzerman – that many injuries are never on the GM.
The Bishop Trade
Perhaps the biggest trade at the deadline was moving Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings. Bishop was one of many goaltenders rumored to be on the move, but come the trade deadline was the only significant name at the position moved. In addition to Bishop, Yzerman also traded a fifth round pick to LA.
In exchange, the Lightning received goaltender Peter Budaj, defenseman Erik Cernak, a seventh-round pick, and a conditional pick based off of LA’s playoff achievements. This trade significantly helps the Lightning in many ways.
One, it means that Andrei Vasilevskiy becomes the starting goaltender for the Lightning. Vas is younger and cheaper than Ben Bishop and saves the Lightning valuable cap space at the position. Vasilevskiy also played a significant role in the Lightning’s latest Cup Finals and has shown the capability of playing well in the playoffs.
Two, the Lightning received Budaj, who as a career backup goaltender will fill the role behind Vas better than Bishop, a starter, could. Budaj is also 10 times cheaper than Bishop, and this year has better numbers. That means if the Lightning wanted to re-sign Budaj for a cheap contract, theoretically they could.
Three, Erik Cernak, the defensive prospect Yzerman picked up, might be the centerpiece of this deal. He must expect great things out of him since he was right about both Hedman and Stralman, Cernak should have the potential to also develop into something. He’ll be playing behind Stralman and Hedman for the foreseeable future, so he should get every possibility.
Yzerman’s Other Deadline Moves
Stevie Y also dealt Valtteri Filppula, Brian Boyle and Mark Streit at the deadline. Those moves all directly helped the Lightning and continued the Yzerplan going into next year.
Filppula was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. He was sent with a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round conditional pick (based off whether the Lightning traded Streit). Filppula was a talented center for the Lightning, but he is 32 and hadn’t scored goals in the double digits in two years. He’s also got a $5 million dollar contract, which can be given to players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat or Jonathan Drouin.
Mark Streit was the return in the Filppula trade. Yzerman had Streit for about an hour before flipping him to Pittsburgh. That trade brought back a fourth-round pick. In effect, Yzerman traded Filppula and a seventh-round pick to exchange fourths. That’s a really great deal. In creating cap room for next year, as well as a new protected forward spot in the expansion draft, the Lightning lost next to nothing.
Yzerman also traded Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In exchange, the team got Byron Froese and a second-round pick. Essentially, Tampa traded a depth center for a much younger depth center and a good pick. Boyle’s got only 23 points this season, and becomes an unrestricted free agent next year. Froese has 39 points in the AHL this season and becomes a restricted free agent. Froese’s benefit is already being shown, as with the injuries to Paquette, Namestikov and Johnson, Froese could see time on ice this season.
Where the Lightning Stand Going Forward
The Lightning’s season has been a bit of a disaster. From November, when captain Steven Stamkos injured his leg, the Lightning have been on a downward slope. But that’s not the fault of the GM, who signed Stamkos to a more than affordable deal and who’s made moves to deal with the injury. The Lightning now sit just 3 points out of the playoffs.
That’s because of Yzerman’s abilities to deal with the crises he’s faced this year. He’s come out on top of all of them, and his deals if anything, have made the team better. So the answer to the question I posed? Continue to trust in Yzerman. He remains one of the best GM’s in the National Hockey League.