The Tampa Bay Lightning have used the trade deadline to make some big moves in the past. It started with the acquisitions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow in 2020. Then the following season they added David Savard for defensive depth. Finally, last season, they added Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul. Those three consecutive deadline additions led to three consecutive Stanley Cup finals appearances, including two Cup wins. Will they make it four straight additions, to chase their fourth straight Cup final appearance?
Top Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Targets
When asking Lightning fans, at least a small group of them, there is a clear ideological goal; Callan Foote has not cut it on this roster. Every year it’s the same story, where he starts well, does not improve, and eventually, they add someone else to replace him on the roster (Zach Bogosian in 2020, Savard trade in 2021, Nick Perbix, Haydn Fleury, Philippe Myers and Ian Cole additions in 2022). This year, Foote has been especially poor. Fans want to use his first-round pedigree and size as an asset to bring in a better player.
To that end, what should the Lightning target? A defenseman, to add depth to what has been a struggling and inconsistent unit? Or should they add a forward in the mould of Blake Coleman, as guys like Vladislav Namestnikov and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare have not been as good as expected this season? Maybe both?
Forwards The Lightning Should Target
The Lightning do not have a ton of cap space. Any move they made must be player-in and player-out. That said, they can’t target players with too big of a contract. What are some names that have been highlighted by this writer and several people? Andrei Kuzmenko (Vancouver Canucks), Adam Ruzicka (Calgary Flames), Noah Cates (Philadelphia Flyers), Nico Sturm (San Jose Sharks), and Nick Bonino (Sharks). Of those names, three, in particular, are intriguing: Kuzmenko, Ruzicka and Cates. Sturm has term on his current contract, which is not ideal for Tampa. Bonino is a veteran who comes with a slightly too expensive contract for the value he would likely bring.
Kuzmenko has been awesome to watch with Vancouver. He has scored 21 goals and 22 assists for 43 points in 46 games in his first NHL season coming from the KHL. He has been one of the very few bright spots for a disastrous season for the Canucks. There have been extension talks. However, there are many who believe the Canucks should be trying to rebuild and should get as much value for Kuzmenko in a trade.
With that said, Kuzmenko has been successful by many metrics and when looking at his raw stats. His $950,000 contract isn’t an issue but will add to what the return must be. Via a poll, a trade likely will consist of at least one roster player, at least one good prospect, and a high draft pick. What would a deal look like for the Lightning? It’s far-fetched, but this is what the idea of a return would be. Again, this is very unlikely to happen, but roughly what the cost would be.
To Tampa Bay: Andrei Kuzmenko
To Vancouver: Ross Colton, Alex Barre-Boulet, Roman Schmidt, 2023 2nd round pick
In the case of Ruzicka, he has seemingly lost out of favour in Calgary. Daryl Sutter has scratched Ruzicka a few times and has even averaged just 12:05 in the 36 games he has played thus far. Ruzicka, despite that, has produced six goals and 14 assists for 20 points. Ruzicka plays the role of playmaker, with an underrated passing ability, and with strong vision. He also forechecks often and can play a rough-around-the-edges style. When looking at several different sites and metrics, he looks like a very under-the-radar addition.
Looking at Dom Luszczyszyn’s GSVA player cards, Ruzicka holds a market value of $4.5 million, while getting paid just $800,000. Meanwhile, Evolving-Hockey’s player cards puts him in the 58th percentile of NHL players in overall game impact, with his offence in the 51st percentile and his defence in the 66th percentile.
Finally, on JFresh’s player cards, he is in the 61st percentile of NHLers in his projected Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric. His offence is in the 45th percentile, while his defence is in the 64th percentile. But his best qualities lie in his primary assists (94th percentile) and goals per 60 (78th percentile) categories.
A trade for Ruzicka will likely be an NHL-ready youngster, as Ruzicka is categorized as such. Plus, depending on the calibre of player, a mid-round pick. That deal could look something like this:
To Tampa Bay: Adam Ruzicka
To Calgary: Cal Foote, 2023 4th round pick
Arguably the lesser-known player on this list, Cates has been flying well under the radar this season. Playing for the Flyers, he has posted six goals and 13 assists for 19 points in 49 contests this season. He has averaged 17:36 per game, making him one of the Flyers’ more trusted forwards. His 68 hits, 40 blocks and 32-to-11 takeaway to giveaway differential show his smart and gritty play style.
Looking at those playing cards again, let’s start with Dom’s: $2.4 million market value, getting paid $900,000. On evolving hockey’s card, he ranks in the 47th percentile overall, with his offence in the 9th percentile and his defence in the 89th percentile. Finally, on JFresh’s model, he ranks in the 76th percentile in projected WAR.
His offence is in the 32nd percentile, while his defence is in the 100th(!) percentile. Also good to mention: he ranks in the 71st percentile in the level of competition he faces, which means he faces tougher lines than most, and is one of, if not the best forward defensively. What with his stats and how much Philadelphia seemingly likes him, what would a deal look like?
To Tampa: Noah Cates
To Philadelphia: Cal Foote, Alex Barre-Boulet and a 2023 4th round pick
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Other Options
Nico Sturm and Nick Bonino are other forwards that caught the eyes of a small group of people that discussed the options. They both reflect favourably on the metrics that were looked at. However, Sturm costs $2 million over the following three seasons. Meanwhile, Bonino costs $2.1 million as a rental.
Unless there was a trade that involved Namestnikov, neither player is very feasible from a financial standpoint. It is not impossible, and both are intriguing options. But based on their contracts, they’re best left as final options if other deals fall through. But the Tampa Bay Lightning do have options.