What should we make of the Lightning's flight today being changed to 3:30 p.m.?
The itinerary for today's charter flight to Washington, posted on the wall of the hallway leading to the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room, had a minor change Tuesday. The time of the flight had been scratched out with a pen and changed from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Does that mean GM Brian Lawton expects to make changes before today's 3 p.m. trade deadline, or is it a just-in-case?
If you listened to Lawton during Tuesday's 7-2 loss to the Flyers, it might be a stretch for the Lightning to make a move. Lawton said he would not be "overly surprised" if he could not swing a deal. Several factors there. As we have noted, Tampa Bay doesn't have the organizational depth to dig into its draft choices or prospects. The exception is at goal, and it would seem the team could dangle its European netminders such as Karri Ramo, Riku Helenius or big Russian Vasily Koshechkin.
Lawton said he also is not necessarily interested in rentals because you not only lose assets when making the trade, but then the player can leave after the season as a free agent. Of the players to whom the Lightning has been at least partially linked, that leaves a player such as Chicago's Kris Versteeg as at least a possibility, though his contract seems like a lot for the Lightning to handle with another $6 million total over the next two years; though, going forward, if incoming owner Jeff Vinik is serious about adding payroll if deals are right, then it is not as much of a stretch.
The question, there, of course, is what would the Lightning have to offer without gutting the team? Rumors have ben around that goalie Mike Smith, and forwards Alex Tanguay and Jeff Halpern have been discussed. On the other hand, the Lightning has not been one of the big rumor makers so far this season.
Lawton said he has confidence the current group can work its way into the playoffs. But after watching Tuesday's third-period meltdown, it should be clear the team needs defensive help (both in the defensive zone and as a way to move the puck up ice, which I believe coach Rick Tocchet thinks is the team's No. 1 priority), and somebody else besides Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Steve Downie to put the puck in the net.
So, we wait ... an extra 90 minutes to leave for Washington.