Would you want the Tampa Bay Lightning to use its depth at goaltender as trade bait?
With the trade deadline in two days (3 p.m. Wednesday), the bigger question for the Lightning than what it can bring back in a deal, but what it can offer. With little organizational depth and with little willingness to trade draft picks that are needed to re-stock the minor league system, there are few options if GM Brian Lawton does not want to gut the big club.
One place Tampa Bay could trade from strength is at goalie. I'm not talking about Mike Smith, Antero Niittymaki or minor-league stars Dustin Tokarksi or Jaroslav Janus, whom the organization absolutely loves. I'm talking about the guys over in Europe: Vasily Koshechkin, one of the best goalie's this season in Russia's KHL and a 2002 Tampa Bay draft pick who finally wants to come to North America; Karri Ramo, who also is doing extremely well in Russia, or disappointing prospect Riku Helenius, who is playing in Sweden.
While you can never have enough goaltending, this is one area where the team has an abundance of riches. From what better place can the Lightning deal?
Seems to me, Tampa Bay would most want to rid itself of Helenius, who has not lived up to expectations as the 15th overall pick of the 2006 draft. But he would have to be part of a bigger package. The most intriguing player as trade bait might be Koshechkin; actually, Tampa Bay would trade his rights as he has not signed an NHL contract. It is not as if he has been doing much for the Lightning, so there's is no track record there. He's big (6-foot-6) and is having a terrific season. He might just be attractive to a team who needs help in net.
Ramo is a bit more problematic. He has a two-year deal to play in Russia, but was pretty clear he would use his opt-out option to come back to North America after this season. Tampa Bay knows his potential, he has some NHL experience, and he will be a better goaltender after a year of playing every day in Russia.
So, what do you do, use the assets, or because you can never have enough goaltending, go a different route? It will be interesting to see if the goalies come into play by the deadline.