At the start of the 2010s, the Tampa Bay Lightning were a franchise mired with poor asset management. In recent years, a series of trades that were meant to shed veteran players for younger prospects backfired, leaving the team with a weak prospect pool and a lack of on-the-ice talent.
Since the start of the decade, however, the Lightning’s fortunes on the trade market have drastically changed. When Steve Yzerman took over the role of general manager in 2010, he stressed making smart trades that never sold too much of the future for temporary success in the moment. Even after he departed the franchise and was replaced by his protege Julien BriseBois in 2018, this mentality persisted.
Due to this philosophy, the Lightning made a number of savvy moves that sold their talent at a premium, while bringing in needed picks and prospects to fill in their minor-league system. Now, as the decade comes to a close, let’s look back at three of the best trades made by Tampa Bay.
Steve Downie for Kyle Quincey for a 2012 First-Round Pick
When it was first announced that the Lightning would be trading beloved forward Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Kyle Quincey before the 2012 trade deadline, the move was met with mixed emotions. By the end of the day, however, Quincey would be flipped to the Detroit Red Wings, bringing back a first-round selection at the 2012 Entry Draft.
With what turned into the 19th-overall pick, the Lightning entered the 2012 draft with two selections in the top 20. With a need for both defense and goaltending, Tampa Bay went about addressing these issues early.
That 19th-overall pick was used to select Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has become a true franchise goaltender for the Lightning. With a Vezina win and a bevy of records under his belt, Vasilevskiy has been everything that Tampa Bay could have hoped for and more.
So, while this wasn’t Yzerman’s first trade for the franchise, it will arguably be his most important in terms of his legacy with the team. This move will also leave a lasting impact that will persist long after the decade closes.
Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop
After the Lightning floundered through the lockout-shortened 2013 season, they found themselves as sellers at the trade deadline. Even after making two big moves in the 2012 offseason to shore up their goaltending, Yzerman decided that he needed to hedge his bets and make one more splash.
As the 2013 trade deadline approached, the Lightning sent budding prospect Cory Conacher, who started the season red-hot with 24 points in 35 games, to the Ottawa Senators for goaltender Ben Bishop.
When the trade went down, many Lightning fans felt confused, as the team lost one of their only bright spots of a miserable season for a backup goaltender. Once Bishop made his first start, a 45-save shutout, fans understood why Yzerman paid a premium for the goalie.
Bishop would go on to play five seasons in Tampa Bay, winning 131 games, a franchise record at the time, while earning two Vezina nominations. Conacher only lasted 72 games in Ottawa, before he bounced around the NHL and Sweden and eventually returned to the Lightning to play in a depth role for the organization.
Needless to say, the Lightning won this trade hands down, with the acquisition of Bishop helping to reshape the franchise into the juggernaut that they are today.
Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev
While the Lightning experienced a miserable lockout-shortened 2013 season, their reward was the third-overall pick at the draft. With this selection, they took Jonathan Drouin, a player that many believed would become a true offensive superstar for the franchise.
A few years after his selection, it became clear that things weren’t working out with Drouin. While the skill was there, it wasn’t always translating to the ice, with both sides growing frustrated in the process.
As the expansion draft loomed in the 2017 offseason, along with Drouin needing a new contract, Yzerman decided to part ways with his former top prospect. After much speculation, Drouin was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for blue-chip defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev.
Sergachev made an immediate impact on the Lighting’s blueline, eventually setting a franchise rookie defensive scoring record with 40 points. Drouin, on the other hand, has struggled to find consistent footing in Montreal, drawing ire from the franchise at times.
The reason why this trade was so important for the Lightning is the fact that Sergachev is only 21 years old, and is already contributing important minutes to Tampa Bay. Should he continue to grow his game, he will be a player that the franchise builds around, filling an important and needed defensive role deep into the 2020s.
Lightning Won Important Trades Throughout the 2010s
One of the defining features of the Lightning throughout the 2010s is the fact that so many of their trades were successful. Both Yzerman and BriseBois played the trade market masterfully, keeping the franchise flush with talent and prospects while staying under the salary cap.
Related: Lightning All-Decade Team: Offense
While it wasn’t always perfect, these trades helped to shape the Lightning into a successful, sustainable franchise, which is a far cry from where the team was at as they entered the decade.
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.