The Tampa Bay Lightning has a history of trades nearing the deadline. The back-to-back champions made back-to-back deadline deals in their respective runs to the Stanley Cup. In 2019-20, the Lightning added Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, and gave up two firsts and a solid prospect in total. Then, in the 2020-21 season, the Lightning made a deal to acquire David Savard in a three-way deal to make the salary work. Could they make another move this season?
Three Tampa Bay Lightning Trades that Could Happen By The Deadline
The Lightning, currently ranked fifth in the league, have not missed a step this season. However, their pace is certainly beginning to slow down. They’re coming off of their first losing streak (in regulation time) of the season, 55 games in.
Since the start of the new calendar year, the Lightning has gone 16-8-1, with four of those losses coming this month, March 2022. The Lightning penalty kill has been up and down since the turn of the new year as well (82.35 percent in January, 66.67% in February, and back up to 85.19% in March). But what’s maybe the most concerning aspect of their start to the calendar year is the declining power play. It went from 24.32% in January to 21.05% in February to its current mark of 19.05% in March. And that doesn’t even begin to look at their bigger issues.
The Players They Could Look For In A Trade
The first player the Lightning should look at acquiring begins at the forward positions. As mentioned, the Lightning has bigger issues than their somewhat poor start to the new calendar year and their declining powerplay. They have been very bad, especially recently, when it comes to starting games off strong. They have been out-scored 24 to 29 in that span in first periods, with a 20% powerplay and 68% penalty kill. Their third periods are a lot better in terms of scoring (out-scoring opponents 36-22), but their powerplay is horrendous, converting on just 7.41% of third-period powerplays. But what makes them good in third periods is their defence, as they’ve killed 86.21% of penalty kills in third periods.
The Lightning needs a player who doesn’t turn the puck over often, plays hard on the puck, and is reliable. A player who is similar to Coleman or Goodrow. There is a very similar player available on the market this season. That player does not hit as often, but similar to Coleman and Goodrow has never had a single season with more giveaways than takeaways. That player is Montreal Canadiens forward, Artturi Lehkonen.
First, let’s look at the salary aspect. The Lightning, with their 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies listed on CapFriendly, combine to absorb $81,354,166. That gives them $145,834 to spend. Lehkonen has a cap hit of $2,300,000. With 50% retainment, that drops to $1,150,000. The Lightning must shed $1,004,166 in order to make Lehkonen fit. One player on the Lightning roster who has been in and out for years is Cal Foote. The right-shot defender has been in and out of the lineup recently, being a healthy scratch more often than not. His $850,000 cap hit won’t be enough to fit Lehkonen under, so this hypothetical trade will likely need a third team. However, this is the basis of the deal.
To Tampa Bay: Artturi Lehkonen (50% salary retainment) and Carolina’s third-round pick in 2022 (owned by Montreal)
To Montreal: Cal Foote and a 2023 first-round pick
The thought behind this trade is comparable to the Coleman trade. Lehkonen’s advanced stats aren’t as good as Coleman’s advanced stats in the 2019-20 season with the Devils, but their raw stats were very similar. In 57 games with the Devils before the trade, Coleman scored 21 goals and 10 assists for 31 points, averaging 17:02 time on ice per game. He had 166 hits and 42 takeaways against 19 giveaways. This season, Lehkonen has 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points in 55 games, averaging 14:40 time on ice per game. He has 58 hits and 14 takeaways to 13 giveaways. With the salary retainment and a likely third team, Lehkonen’s return heightens, thus making it eerily comparable to the Coleman deal despite being a step below him, both looking at raw stats and advanced metrics.
Trade Two For The Tampa Bay Lightning
If that first option of Lehkonen does not pan out, there are two forwards who could be argued as a good plan B. Those two are Nick Paul of the Ottawa Senators and Tyler Motte of the Vancouver Canucks. First, looking at Paul, he seems less likely to be dealt with. The Senators should look to extend Paul’s contract moving forward, and it seems as though that’s what they are looking to do. But if talks continue to stall, Ottawa could look to move him for a decent haul. Paul’s contract is $1,350,000, which is cheaper than Lehkonen’s deal. Retaining half brings his cap hit down to $675,000.
As for Motte, he is slightly cheaper, with a cap hit of $1,225,000. Half retainment puts his cap hit at $612,500. He’s posted better analytics than Paul as well, despite producing less in terms of raw stats. Motte is also the more physical player, throwing more hits than Paul. With all that in consideration, as well as the cheaper salary, Tampa should target Motte. Looking at similar deals from past deadlines, this could be the blueprint of that deal, with some extra work on cap space needed like the other hypothetical deal.
To Tampa Bay: Tyler Motte (50% retained)
To Vancouver: 2023 third-round pick
Motte has put up similar stats and advanced analytics to that of Nick Cousins in 2019-20. Cousins had 22 points in 58 games before he was dealt at the 2020 deadline to the Vegas Golden Knights. Motte and Cousins have similar hit totals, with Cousins having 77 hits in that 2019-20 season before being dealt and Motte currently at 78. Motte also produced less, with 14 points across 45 games thus far. And Cousins was dealt for a fourth-round pick.
Cousins was younger at the time he was dealt in 2020, produced more, and was just as physical and responsible with the puck. Additionally, they had similar defensive analytics. With the Vancouver Canucks retaining salary, the price goes up a bit, leading to the third-rounder. But Tampa doesn’t have a second or third in 2022, forcing the draft capital to be in 2023. But for a plan B, and the relative lack of assets to give up, it’s a good plan to have. Tampa should at least make a call about it.
Trade Three For The Tampa Bay Lightning
Joe Smith of The Athletic has talked a lot recently about whether or not the Lightning trust young defenseman, Foote, to play come playoff time. With Foote reportedly missing a team meeting and becoming a healthy scratch a lot more recently than before, along with the defence becoming healthy, it seems the team has already shown their cards. With Zach Bogosian, Jan Rutta and Erik Cernak being their other right-shot defenders, it would be wise to add some more talent to the right side. Why not bring back Luke Schenn?
Schenn is worth $850,000. He’s played top-four minutes with Vancouver, and his advanced stats have been very, very good this season. Here’s what a deal for Schenn could look like.
To Tampa Bay: Luke Schenn and a 2022 fourth-round pick
To Vancouver: Cal Foote and a 2022 sixth-round pick
Schenn is a cheap option to improve the back-end. Foote, as mentioned already, has seemingly fallen out of favour in Tampa Bay. For the Canucks, they get a young right-shot to immediately replace Schenn, with a chance to develop and grow into a top-four guy for them. Schenn brings a veteran who has already played with the team, in the playoffs no less, when they chased a Cup. Schenn is comparable to trade between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins back in 2017-18 that included Nick Holden. Holden was a few years younger at the time (he was 30, Schenn is 32) and their stats and analytics are similar.
Holden recorded three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 55 games, averaging 18:59 time on ice per game, for the Rangers before being dealt for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick. Schenn has scored three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 44 games, averaging 17:02 time on ice per game. They both threw over 100 hits in those respective seasons, making them similar in both production and style. However, Schenn has been slightly better in terms of production, and the Canucks are still in the playoff hunt. That said, Tampa would have to pay a little bit extra to make the deal happen.
What Could The Tampa Bay Lightning Do At The Deadline?
Odds are, nothing really happens for the Lightning this season. They’ve spent a lot of future assets to chase back-to-back Cups and have lost key pieces like Yanni Gourde, Coleman, Goodrow and others because of the salary they’ve spent. Also, Foote was included in two of the three hypotheticals, and truthfully, the Lightning likely doesn’t want to part ways with arguably their best prospect. But at the end of the day, winning a third consecutive Cup is a dynasty. It is historical.
The drive to make history may ultimately outweigh the need to still look to the future. Not to mention, their recent struggles have been hard to watch. BriseBois may decide a deal is the best way to get his Tampa Bay Lightning back on track. Ultimately, if anything, the most likely deal is to bring in a right-shot defender like Schenn. Only time will tell.
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