Look beyond stars for real trade possibilities
There has been much speculation the past month or so that the Lightning, very likely to miss the playoffs, is ready to jettison high-profile players such as Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Seems to me there is more evidence pointing to the team sticking with these guys through the March 4 deadline.
I write more about this in Sunday's paper, but also thought it was a good topic for debate.
For starters, this team needs to sell tickets. Without a playoff appearance as a marketing hook for the second consecutive season, the Lightning wouldn't do itself much good getting rid of three of its most marketable assets. St, Louis again has proved how integral he is to the team both on the ice and in the locker room. Stamkos, getting bigger, stronger and smarter about the game thanks to Tampa Bay's conditioning and video program, is showing signs he could be the star people have predicted. Lecavalier is simply the face of the franchise.
It also isn't a stretch to believe ownership would like to project a sense of stability after a season in which the team has used a league-high 43 players.
Both of those tasks would be exponentially more difficult if the Lightning started shedding some of the reasons people come to see the team.
That is not to say teams won't be calling about Tampa Bay's star players, and it is not to say the Lightning won't be active at the trade deadline. But there are more likely targets such as forwards Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts and defenseman Marek Malik. All are potential unrestricted free agents, meaning the Lightning could lose them for nothing, and all have proved value and could bring a modest, positive return.
Recchi, 41, a future Hall of Famer, has 12 goals and is third on the team with 25 assists and 37 points. Roberts, 42, who also could be headed for the Hall, has been rejuvenated since returning from an elbow injury that cost him 33 games. Malik, 33, is slow-footed and nursing a right ankle problem, but he is a veteran presence and confident with the puck.
All would add either, depth, experience or leadership to a playoff team. And while they would not bring back star players, they could return solid depth, draft choices or prospects to an organization that could use more of each.
So, listen to the rumors and discuss the merits and demerits. And while you can't say something will never happen, you can say what is more likely leading up to the deadline.