TAMPA — Julien BriseBois listened to offers right up until the 3 p.m. trade deadline, but the Lightning general manager didn’t hear anything he thought would make his team better.
“Ultimately, I didn’t find anything that I could say, ‘That makes us a better team. That makes sense. That brings us closer to winning the Stanley Cup’ ” BriseBois said. “It wasn’t there.”
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t looking for one. The Lightning passed on a deal on Monday, and BriseBois said he didn’t know he would stand pat until 3 p.m. He had a good idea Tampa Bay wouldn’t make a move, but he couldn’t be sure until he had explored all the options.
BriseBois pointed out that though Monday was the deadline, it’s a month-long process of evaluating options and making trades. During that time, the Lightning has continued to get better.
“I hope I sent them the same message they’ve been sending me: calm, confident,” he said of his team. “We have a very good team. We have faith in the players we have there. We have, I think, answers for what our opponents will throw at us.”
The Lightning has answered its own questions and filled the holes organically. Coming into the season, BriseBois thought he might need to look for another right-shot defenseman who can play big minutes. Erik Cernak turned out to be that player.
Tampa Bay wanted a fast team. Adam Erne and Mathieu Joseph add speed, and Danick Martel does the same as a depth player. Erne has also added a layer of physicality.
BriseBois declined to discuss specific players, like Wayne Simmonds, saying it wasn’t fair to talk about a player on another team.
He didn’t want to make a move to make a move. He wanted it to make the team better. There were opportunities to make the team deeper, but would it also be better? With good players already sitting out, maybe not.
“We’re sitting out some really good players right now,” BriseBois said. “When they go into the lineup, they look really good, and they make it hard for the coaches to sit them out again. One of the things you look for is usually depth at D, depth at center. We have that.”
First as GM
This wasn’t BriseBois’s first trade deadline. He’s been a part of this organization for almost a decade, spending eight years working with Steve Yzerman as assistant general manager. But this was his first as general manager.
How’d it go?
“It was calm,” BriseBois said. “I don’t know if it should be or shouldn’t be, but it was.”
Asked about incoming vs. outgoing calls, he said “many calls going both ways.”
In the end, BriseBois credits the calm with preparation. He, the rest of the management team, the pro scouts, and the coaches had all done their homework. They knew what players they were looking at. As other players came available, they knew how to break down the advantages and disadvantages.
When BriseBois had questions, the Lightning staff had answers.
They all analyzed possible trades “rationally, coldly, with one objective in mind:” winning the Stanley Cup.
As for how BriseBois did on his first trade deadline as decision-maker, the early returns look good. The final answer will be clear in June.