Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman on why he likely sticks with No. 6 pick
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has said all along it is "remote" that he will trade the No. 6 overall pick in this weekend's draft. Yzerman on Thursday said he has had some conversations about trading the pick, but he sounds more committed than ever to keeping the pick.
Not a bad strategy for a team that needs tons of organizational depth.
"There has been some interest in the pick, and our debate has been, first off, there are some players at the six spot that we like," Yzerman said. "So, for us to trade back, we would have to get something that, first, would make us real confident that how far we are trading back we would get a player we want. The more you move back, the less certain you are getting a player you would want. So, we would consider it, but the idea of going way back, there is just too much uncertainty because, around six, we can get a pretty good player.
"We feel there are good players in and around six. So, to trade it just because it's the sixth pick, I don't know if that's the thing to do. At four, five, six, seven and eight, there is a group of players in there that I don't think anybody predict which one is necessarily better than the other, and I'm sure teams have them in a different kind of order, but they would be happy with any four of them."
Who might the Lightning pick? The belief is the team would rather pick a defenseman (Brandon Gormley perhaps). But there is a concern Gormley and fellow defensemen Cam Fowler and Erik Gudbranson could be gone by No. 6. In that scenario, Tampa Bay might take a chance on left wing Nino Niederreiter, a 6-2, 205-pounder from Portland of the Western Hockey League.
Brett Connolly is an interesting player as well. The right wing from WHL Prince George might be the most skilled player in the draft. But he played just 16 games last season because of flexor injuries to both hips. Gormley even said today that missing so much time was detrimental to his development. Even so, he said he has not had any pain since March and that a good summer can make up some of the development he missed during the season.
On to other topics:
As far as potential unrestricted free agents go, Yzerman said he has spoken to the agent for goalie Antero Niittymaki, but doesn't expect to really dive into the team's pending UFAs until after the draft.
"Things are kind of on hold for the time being," Yzerman said. "I've got some other things going on here before I can make any commitments to anybody. So, I've put that on hold for the time being, and once we get through the draft, we'll see where we are with a couple of things next week before July 1, and figure out exactly what we want to present and what we can present and what we want to do."
About the assistant coaches, Yzerman said he has gotten permission from clubs to speak to potential candidates and expects to name the assistants in a couple of weeks. As we wrote recently, it is believed new coach Guy Boucher wants his assistants from AHL Hamilton: Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond. But Raymond could end up with the Canadiens. As for Lightning associate coach Rick Wilson, who has two years left on his deal; goaltenders coach Cap Raeder, who has one year; and assistant Adam Oates, whose deal is up June 30, there status is uncertain. Wilson said he has not spoken yet to Boucher, but understands a new coach wanting his own people. "I understand the process," Wilson said.
About the CEO: This isn't an Yzerman topic, but filling the position lost some urgency after owner Jeff Vinik decided Yzerman would report to him and not the CEO, who would be responsible for the business side of the organization and not the hockey side. Anyway, there are rumblings the position is close to being filled with an announcement expected after July 4.
Enjoy the draft, everybody.