Not every impactful trade deadline deal has to be a blockbuster. Sometimes small moves can make a big impact on a roster that is looking to make a postseason push or retool for the next season after things didn’t go your way. For the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators, one such trade occurred hours before the 2022 deadline. In this deal, Tampa Bay sent forward Mathieu Joseph and a fourth-round pick in the 2024 draft to Ottawa for forward Nick Paul.
This trade was a classic example of a hockey deal, where two young players are swapped so they can earn a new role with a different franchise. Neither Joseph nor Paul had managed to find more than a niche role with their respective franchise, but they clearly had the talent to produce more on the ice than they were.
So far, 10-plus games after this trade went down, it appears that this change of scenery has been fruitful for Paul and Joseph, with both playing some of the best hockey of their careers.
Lightning and Senators Finding the Right Opportunities for Paul and Joseph
Since joining the Senators, Joseph experienced a bit of a breakout, posting four goals and 12 points in 11 games played, including his first career hat-trick. Considering that he had eight goals and 18 points in 58 games with the Lightning this season, this scoring outburst is impressive, but not a complete shock. He had always shown glimpses of being an offensive threat but just could never get the puck where he needed to score.
So far, Joseph has been able to put himself in the right position to succeed with Ottawa. In return, they have given him a bigger role with the franchise, as he is taking on three more minutes of ice time each night in their top six. Given this opportunity, it’s very possible that he continues to stay hot and factor into the Senators’ plans for years to come.
While Joseph may be impressing in Ottawa, that doesn’t mean that the Lightning will feel any buyers’ remorse for bringing in Paul. In his 13 starts with Tampa Bay, he has already scored two goals and seven points with his limited 13 minutes of ice time each night.
However, what will excite Lightning fans about Paul isn’t his offensive upside, but his tough, defensive play. Right now, he looks like that perfect Swiss-Army Knife player, who can take on a role on the penalty kill, lay down some big hits, make a perfect pass to score a goal, and get in a fight all in the same night.
For Tampa Bay, Paul has been a great fit in their bottom-six alongside Ross Colton and Brandon Hagel. In many ways, you can start to see budding chemistry that is reminiscent of their old third-line of Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman, that was a driving force towards their back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. While it is unfair to compare them to those players now, it is a great sign that they are showing glimpses of this play before the 2022 playoffs begin.
Perfect Trade Is Propelling Senators and Lightning Forward
It’s rare for a trade deadline deal to have immediate positive results for all parties involved, but that appears to be the case in this deal. For the Lightning, they got a big, talented forward who will make them tougher to play against in the postseason, which is the only thing they care about right now. For the Senators, they got a fast, highly-skilled forward who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning he could be extended at a relatively low cap hit.
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In all, this trade has been a win-win in the short-term, and is a reminder that not every deal has to have a winner and a loser. Sometimes, it can just be a mutually beneficial change of scenery that helps reinvigorate the careers of two players.
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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.