Lightning GM Yzerman would prefer to deal Jonathan Drouin by deadline
General manager Steve Yzerman declined to handicap the likelihood he makes a deal before Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.
But it's clear Yzerman would like to move suspended wing Jonathan Drouin by then if he could. And Yzerman will likely have an opportunity, saying he's talked to a lot of teams about the former No. 3 overall pick, who remains at home in Montreal in limbo. Yzerman is believed to have several offers on the table.
"I definitely prefer to deal him sooner than later, it would be better for everyone," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday. "A lot of things factor into it when making the trade, a lot of things to consider here. But number one is, 'Can I do something involving Jonathan that benefits the team that makes us better right now that helps us for the playoffs? I'd certainly like to do that."
While many presume the Lightning is looking for a top-four defenseman, preferably a right-shot, Yzerman said his focus is improving the struggling power play, which is 26th in the league at 17.5 percent.
"We all have needs," Yzerman said. "If I could do something to help our power play, I'd like to do that. And that's going to be difficult to do."
One issue is the salary cap. The Lightning has only around $1.5 million of cap space available, so it'd be hard to take on another salary unless one is moved out. That's why a lot of speculation surrounds veteran defenseman Matt Carle, who is due $5.5 million each of the next two seasons; Carle, for what it's worth, said today he has yet to be approached about a trade or his limited no-trade clause.
"It's not just our salary cap, it's the team that you're trying to make a deal with salary cap too," Yzerman said. "That's what everybody doesn't really understand. When trying to make a deal involving players and contracts, it's got to work for both teams. It's not just mine. It proves challenging for everyone."
Yzerman felt like the Lightning needed to boost its blueline at last year's deadline, dealing two regulars, defenseman Radko Gudas and former first round pick Brett Connolly, in separate deals, acquiring veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn.
While some wonder if Yzerman will shake things up in a trade, moving someone out of his lineup, he's generally hesitant to do that. After all, he kept this team primarily together through the summer for a reason, adding only Erik Condra to a group that reached the Stanley Cup Final.
"I've found it very difficult to trade core guys," Yzerman said. "And you have to give up something to get something, and it's hard to do, we're all trying to make trades where we're getting something we like but none of us want to give up anything that we like. Trading both of those players last year was difficult, they were both good guys and been big part of the team. We had our reasons for doing it and were happy to acquire Braydon and think he's been an excellent contributor to our team and remains this year as well.
"Every time we talk about a trade with another team, you're hoping to give up as little as you can, but the reality is if you want something you have to pay for it, and that's what you've got to do."
One core player who is definitely not going anywhere at the deadline is captain Steven Stamkos. Yzerman made that clear in a strong statement Feb. 15, saying he's still hoping to sign the All-Star, who is in the final year of his current deal and is set to be an urestricted free agent. Stamkos has scored a goal in four straight games, the team is 4-0 since the statement.
"I don't think taking pressure off is why we did it," Yzerman said. "Simply myself and Stammer and (agents) Donnie Meehan and Mark Guy talked about it and the reality is he's not going to be traded. The sooner we said that, it could end all the speculation and Stammer doesn't have to answer that question everyday, and I think that just makes his life a little easier on a day to day basis. It limits the distractions and he doesn't have to deal with it everyday. There was a lot of potential speculation on something that wasn't going to happen.
"I'm not sure how much that - you have to ask Stammer - if that impacted his play or not, but he's certainly been productive."
The Lightning (34-22-4) is currently in second place in the Atlantic Division, three points behind first-place Florida thanks to a four-game winning streak. Yzerman is pleased his team has picked it up after losing four of five, feeling they've played "reasonably well."
"We've seemed to turn that around a little bit," he said.
The power play will be Yzerman's focus, trying to supplement an inconsistent unit, "whether it be a defenseman or forward."
"I would like us to get more traffic in front of the net and shoot the puck, simplify," Yzerman said. "It sounds easy but.. the more you work on it, the more you think about it, the more attention you spend on it, and it takes some time. I just believe, over time, you get loose pucks, get back to the point, shoot the puck and get traffic at the net, you get rebounds and loose pucks and do it over and over. We just need to simplify it."
Or make a move.
Yzerman will be in Colorado this weekend for the Red Wings-Avalanche alumni game at Coors Field, which is Saturday at 6 p.m. When suggested that at least there will be no deals for that two-hour period, Yzerman quipped. "Well, I wouldn't say that. There's between periods, can get stuff done."