Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning looking at trade deadline

The NHL trade deadline is March 5, but the Olympic roster freeze that will be in effect from 3 p.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 23 has created an artificial deadline many believe general managers will use as an advantage.

The theory is the league's Feb. 9-25 Olympic break will allow acquired players to acclimate to new teams (practices can resume Feb. 19) and surroundings. On the other hand, paying newly acquired players during a break might turn some teams off, and every day that ticks off the calendar reduces a player's salary cap hit.

Either way, timing might be everything.

The Lightning is in an interesting place when it comes to the trade deadline.

Thanks to injured defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Brian Lee being on long-term injured reserve, it has about $3 million of cap space. It also will be getting back injured star Steven Stamkos before or after the break, a nice jolt of extra offense for a team that already averages 2.9 goals.

That means general manager Steve Yzerman can concentrate on adding blue-line depth or, if he wants to try to go big, a top-four player to really add some stability.

There are a couple of intriguing options, neither of which has been linked publicly to the Lightning but perhaps merit some consideration: the Islanders' Andrew MacDonald and Detroit's Kyle Quincey.

MacDonald, 27, would be a thrilling addition. He averages 25:41 of ice time, seventh in the league, and with three goals and 23 points has an offensive instinct.

New York is nine points out of a playoff spot and could decide to unload MacDonald, who makes just $575,000 this season but is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and likely is in line for a big increase. MacDonald plays in all situations and would let coach Jon Cooper even more efficiently slot his remaining defensemen.

Quincey, 28, is a much more expensive option (he is making $4 million this season and could become unrestricted), but is a defensive specialist. And with players such as Victor Hedman and Mark Barberio able to move the puck, a stable, reliable presence in the defensive zone might be what Tampa Bay needs.

The Red Wings still are in the playoff hunt. But if Detroit decides it is not a Stanley Cup contender, Quincey, who averages 20:32 of ice time and is second on the team with 72 blocked shots, could become available. And don't forget Yzerman's connection and friendship with Red Wings GM Ken Holland.

Yzerman is loath to trade his youngsters (not that he wouldn't in the right circumstance) and is more likely to trade for a player who will contribute long term rather than as a rental.

He has two deadlines to figure it out.

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