With a multitude of teams still in playoff contention, the 2019 Trade Deadline has been one of near-constant activity. In the days and weeks leading up to the deadline, teams have been making moves to bolster their depth or, in some cases, give their team a midseason facelift with the addition of some elite offensive talent.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning and first-year general manager Julien BriseBois, though, things have been relatively quiet. Sure, the Lightning have been connected to a number of top trade candidates, but with their incredible play throughout the season, BriseBois hasn’t felt the need to rush into a trade.
In fact, given their domination of the league and the available depth within their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning are in a position to win the 2019 Trade Deadline without even having to make a move.
Lightning Can Wait out the Deadline
Given the consistent play of their current roster, the Lightning simply don’t need to make a trade this deadline. They are already bursting at the seams with top-end talent and strong depth scoring, causing head coach Jon Cooper to set up a game-by-game player rotation to get everyone some ice time each week.
This means that any player they bring in at the trade deadline will be a pure luxury addition. This gives BriseBois the ability to wait out the deadline to see what moves other teams make without having to feel like he missed out on a potentially team-changing player.
If, as the deadline approaches, a target is still available, BriseBois can make a low offer for him instead of having to overpay for his services. If the offer is refused, nothing is really lost since the Lightning didn’t need to make a move in the first place. If the offer is accepted, then BriseBois will have added some playoff depth likely below market value.
Lightning Have Options in Syracuse
Even if they choose to sit out the trade deadline, this doesn’t mean that the Lightning won’t have options to improve their roster. With a deep and talented group of forwards and defensemen playing great hockey for the Crunch, Tampa Bay has plenty of options for a midseason call-up.
As far as veteran options go, the Lightning have long-time franchise face in Cory Conacher playing some strong hockey with the Crunch. As a player who developed his game under Cooper, he could be called up at any point in the playoff stretch to provide immediate depth without missing a beat.
Beside Conacher, Tampa Bay also has Andy Andreoff stashed in Syracuse. While he may not be known as an offensive dynamo, he has still provided 18 goals and 36 points along with 108 penalty minutes to the Crunch. So, as a fourth-line call-up, he could slot right into the lineup and bring some scoring potential and a little bit of edge with him.
These veterans aren’t the only options for the Lightning, either. Two of the top-three scorers in Syracuse are forwards with little-to-no NHL experience. Both Carter Verhaeghe and Alex Barre-Boulet have been playing some incredible hockey this season, and either could add an immediate scoring surge to Tampa Bay’s lineup.
Given that Anthony Cirelli claimed his spot on the Lightning’s roster after getting a taste of NHL action as an emergency call-up last March, this shows that Cooper and BriseBois are willing to take a chance on untested players even late into the season. This means that Tampa Bay has the potential to call-up a fourth-line grinder or a player with scoring potential instead of trading for them at the deadline.
A Smart Deadline Is a Winning Deadline for Lightning
The best thing the Lightning can do is wait, not react, at the 2019 Trade Deadline. As teams throw around future assets for short-term rentals, BriseBois knows that he already has a roster built to win now and in the future.
Sure, adding a depth player like Wayne Simmonds or a star like Jonathan Huberdeau wouldn’t hurt, but it wouldn’t necessarily help, either. If the price is right, then a trade would be worthwhile. If not, then the Lightning should just sit in the background and watch their rivals go all-in at the deadline, because they have already been all-in this entire 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.