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Should Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton be "aggressive" at trade deadline?



Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton said last week he wants to be "aggressive" at the March 3 trade deadline. He said prospective owner Jeff Vinik, who is already writing the payroll checks, has said he is not opposed to increasing payroll if the right deal comes along.

"I explained what we were doing as a management group and it didn't rankle Jeff," Lawton said. "We're looking to be aggressive. That's the way we've been preparing for the last month and a half as we see how the team is doing."

What the team is doing is showing where it needs to upgrade. The most obvious spots are on defense, where the current three-game losing streak in which Tampa Bay has allowed 15 goals has displayed lots of holes that were covered up when the goaltending was standing on its head. There also is immediate need for someone, anyone, other than Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Steve Downie to score some goals from the forward position. That line has 24 of the team's last 32 goals, and with Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, and Alex Tanguay missing in action, the problem is exacerbated. Digest these stats: Lecavalier has zero points in five games and is minus-7 in his past three. Malone has zero goals in 11 games. Tanguay has one in 12.

Coach Rick Tocchet wouldn't mind another third- or fourth-line grinder, though the bottom two lines, while also unable to score with any regularity, are not the problem.

Here's the thing, though. Getting a scoring wing or a decent defenseman for a playoff push likely would be expensive and Tampa Bay, after years of bad drafting, does not have the organizational depth to put together a big-enough package without sacrificing some of what has brought a team that has not made the playoffs the past two years to within one point of a playoff spot.

There are also other considerations given Vinik is not yet owner. The financial deal needs to close and he also needs NHL approval for the transfer of ownership. Both are considered formalities, but until that is done, any trades need approvals of the current owners and the NHL, which is acting kind of like a clearing house until things are finalized.

The one-game call-up of Mark Parrish for Sunday's last game before the Olympic break was part of the process, it seems. Why not see what the guy has to give when making calculations about what is in your organization?

All this means is that Lawton, if he decides to make some moves, has to be smart. Of course, we're assuming that being so close to the playoffs, Lawton, who in the final year of his contract is in audition mode for Vinik and whomever he hires as a CEO type to evaluate the franchise, will try to upgrade, even modestly, so let's stick with that mind-set as it would be difficult to believe at this point you just give up on the season.

So, if you were in charge, what would you do?

Also, with the Olympic break, my bosses are allowing me to take a break, too. May pop in here or there, but things should be quiet until teams are allowed to resume practice on Feb. 24. And remember, while teams can still talk, no trades can be announced until March 1.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 18, 2010 2:13pm]


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