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Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Blue Jackets Skilled Defender

The Tampa Bay Lightning trade deadline will be interesting to watch this season. Over the last several seasons, they’ve been active with deals. It started with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. More recently, it has been Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont. This season, there is a question of what the Lightning should do; buy or sell? Here at Last Word, Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta will start a series where they look at some potential trades. Let’s say they buy, who do they get? What do they give up? Today, we look at Ivan Provorov of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Disclaimer: The players featured in these articles aren’t always linked to the Lightning but have been made available in some capacity this season. These pieces are observing whether Tampa Bay should target them and what the cost would be if they did.

Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Ivan Provorov

The 7th overall pick of the 2015 NHL entry draft had high expectations from his draft night. The Philadelphia Flyers projected a young, skilled Provorov as their franchise cornerstone. This past summer, Provorov joined Columbus after spending seven years with the Flyers. He was the main asset of a three-way trade, which also involved the Los Angeles Kings. The Flyers received a haul of assets in exchange for Provorov, and the price tag will likely be similar at the trade deadline.

The Lightning appears to have interest in Provorov ahead of the trade deadline, according to David Pagnotta. Provorov is in the fifth year of his six-year, $40,500,000 contract he signed with the Flyers in 2019. With Mikhail Sergachev placed on LTIR for the remainder of the season, does acquiring Provorov in his place make sense?

Provorov Scouting Report

Provorov has always had the toolbox to become an elite defenceman in the NHL. However, he has yet to put all the pieces together and execute. The Russian defender is streaky, showing flashes of excellence followed by moments of disaster. Provorov has a superb skill set and solid skating abilities that allow him to play difficult minutes. Furthermore, Provorov has a canon of a shot from the point, something the Lightning needs on the back end.

Nearing the 600-game plateau, Provorov has 70 goals and 173 assists for 243 points in 589 career games. His career-best production came in his sophomore season with the Flyers, scoring 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points in 82 games. In his first season with Columbus, Provorov has five goals and 21 assists for 26 points in 57 games. The left-handed blue liner is on pace for 37 points across 82 games with the Blue Jackets. Provorov is an enticing trade target for the Lightning. To understand his potential impact, let’s dive deeper into his game.

Provorov’s Strengths

While Provorov’s production has improved with a change of scenery, the 27-year-old still has more to give. Provorov is best known as a puck-moving defenceman on the breakout in his years with the Flyers. He utilizes his edge control and acceleration to beat opposing forecheckers to pucks and find clean zone exits. Hand-tracked microstats from All Three Zones ranked Provorov in the 88th percentile of defensive zone retrievals per hour amongst all defencemen during the 2022-23 campaign. Moreover, Provorov placed in the 97th percentile of this statistic the year prior. 

Another asset of Provorov’s is his ability to activate on the rush. The Russian defender ranked in the 87th percentile of rush offence per 60 just one season ago. The Lightning needs to generate more shots off the rush heading into the playoffs. The Lightning has been outshot 28-20 on the rush in three recently tracked games of our microstats project here at Last Word (41.67 RSHT%). While Provorov is a solid offensive player, his defensive game raises question marks.

The Concerns for Provorov

Provorov’s play in the defensive zone has held him back over the past two seasons. Before the coaching change in Philadelphia, Evolving Hockey graded Provorov’s even-strength defensive GAR above replacement level from 2017-22. A 40-point sophomore season combined with a 4.8 even-strength defensive GAR showed Provorov had a bright future ahead. However, Provorov has recorded a defensive GAR of -1.9 in the last two seasons with Philadelphia and Columbus. 

Tampa Bay is not the most structurally sound defensive team this season. Provorov plays a similar game to Sergachev, a defenceman with an offensive mind, hard shot, and solid skating skills. After Jeff Blashill joined the Bolts as an Assistant Coach, the Lightning’s defensive zone turned to hot garbage. Sergachev had defensive numbers under a stacked Lightning system during the Stanley Cup runs, but under Blashill, his defensive weaknesses showed. Provorov will likely experience the same issues if Julien BriseBois were to offer the Blue Jackets a trade. If the Lightning were to pull the trigger on Provorov, what would the trade cost them?

What It Would (Likely) Take To Acquire Johnson

After roughly 60 games with the Blue Jackets, Provorov’s tenure in Columbus may be over after the 2024 NHL trade deadline. With the Lightning down Sergachev for the rest of the season, there is a vacant role on the left side of the second pairing. In addition, the Lightning gained $8.5 million in cap space with Sergachev’s injury. A comparable trade from last year offers a potential look at a Provorov to Tampa Bay trade. Jakob Chychrun joined the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, and a 2026 second-round pick. Provorov has one year remaining on his deal like Chyrchun did last season. Both defenders are similar in age and looking for a change in scenery. Below is a hypothetical trade offer for Provorov.

Tampa Bay acquires: Ivan Provorov (D)

Columbus acquires: Isaac Howard (F), 2026 first-round pick

How Both Sides Benefit From the Trade

The Blue Jackets projected pipeline on defence is stacked for the upcoming decade, with David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk leading the charge. At 27 years old, Provorov does not fit the timeline of the Blue Jackets roster. Furthermore, Provorov is only signed for one more season past 2024 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Selling his services to acquire younger assets is a smart move. For the Lightning, they find some stability on the blue line while also getting Provorov under contract for the 2024-25 campaign. What Tampa Bay decides to do with Provorov next season is unknown.

Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: In Or Out On Johnson

Provorov is a modern NHL defenceman with valuable offensive instincts. We have no doubts Provorov will help contribute to the Lightning’s attack. However, we are concerned with his defensive play in Tampa Bay’s system. Furthermore, do the Lightning look to do a sign and trade deal with Provorov, or will he be flipped in the off-season to another organization?

Emil Martinsen Lilleberg and Maxwell Crozier remain solid options on the back end in place of Sergachev. The Syrcause Crunch continue to provide Jon Cooper with NHL worthy talent every year. Is Provorov’s poor defensive game worth the risk of a future roster player and first round pick? Last Word believes Provorov is not worth the trade for the Lightning. Tampa Bay must find immediate scoring help and offensive depth at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline.

Advanced percentiles via AllThreeZones and HockeyViz (paid subscription required)

Raw stats via NaturalStatTrick & EvolvingHockey

Lightning tracked stats via Last Word (Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta)


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