With the 2019 NHL trade deadline less than a week away, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in an enviable position. They have consistently been the top team in the NHL this season, with a deep roster filled with high-end offensive talent, solid defensemen, and a goaltending tandem that is one of the best in the league.
Despite all of this, though, the Lightning still aren’t immune to trade rumors. Throughout the season, they have been connected with multiple teams and players, with everyone from All-Star talents to bottom-pairing forwards rumored to be on first-year general manager Julien BriseBois’ radar.
While there is likely some truth behind all of the rumors, as a general manager should be looking at all options before the deadline, some discussions seem more realistic than others. So, which rumored players might find themselves in a Bolts’ uniform come the deadline, and which were nothing more than BriseBois doing his homework?
Lightning Trade Rumors That Aren’t Going to Happen
First and foremost, no matter how much fun it is to imagine, Artemi Panarin won’t be playing for the Lightning (at least, not at the 2019 deadline). While there are a multitude of reasons why this is the case, the only point that really matters is that the Columbus Blue Jackets are still solidly in playoff contention.
Just about the only move that could ruin the Blue Jackets’ momentum would be trading an offensive dynamo like Panarin, gutting one of the teams’ greatest scoring threats. Even if the Lightning made a big futures offer, Columbus could still realistically decline in hopes of finally making it out of the first round of the NHL playoffs.
In a similar vein, another player linked to the Lightning was Micheal Ferland. When the rumor first popped up about a month ago, it made some sense, as the Carolina Hurricanes were struggling to keep up in the Metro and looked to be sellers at the deadline.
Now, a few short weeks later, the Hurricanes are firmly in the middle of the playoff race, threatening to take over third place in their division. So, even if Carolina felt that they could get a decent return for Ferland, they will likely want to keep their core roster together in order to make a push for the playoffs.
Likely Lightning Trade Targets
Given their current roster and cap space, there still are a few likely targets for the Lightning. The first target is Wayne Simmonds who, despite being a pure rental, would still draw attention from BriseBois. The reasoning is simple: in the 2018 playoffs, Tampa Bay got pushed around by the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final, leading to the Game 7 loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.
Being one of the quintessential power forwards in the NHL for the better part of the last decade, Simmonds could be the exact piece that the Lightning need to fight back against a more physical team in the playoffs. With this in mind, it would make sense for BriseBois to be on the phone with the Philadelphia Flyers until he is either traded or the deadline passes.
Besides Simmonds, one could also see the Lightning trying to pry a big-bodied forward like Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild. While there haven’t been any rumors connecting Coyle to Tampa Bay yet, he has the strong, power-forward playstyle that they would covet for the playoffs.
Brisebois Should Sit out the Trade Deadline
With many buyers and few sellers on the market this season, there’s a good chance that BriseBois will choose to sit out the 2019 trade deadline. While there will likely be rumors swirling around the franchise until the final minute of the deadline, they have no reason to go out and make a trade just for the sake of making a trade.
This team already has a core that can compete for a Stanley Cup, and they have the depth in their minor league system to fill in the gaps should an injury occur down the stretch. Unless if the perfect situation presents itself, the Lightning should be happy to just watch this deadline from the shadows.
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.