TAMPA — The Lightning spent the past few days considering trade options. Scouts were dispatched to hockey rinks across North America throughout the preseason in search of improvements.
They recently checked on Lukas Krajicek, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound defenseman with shifty skating ability and good strength. Ultimately, his ability to shape turnovers into scoring opportunities convinced Lightning vice president of operations Brian Lawton to make a move.
Krajicek was acquired Monday by Tampa Bay along with minor-league wing Juraj Simek in a deal that sent defenseman Shane O'Brien and forward Michel Ouellet to Vancouver. Along with Simek, goaltender Karri Ramo and defenseman Vladimir Mihalik are headed to the Lightning's AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va.
Krajicek is expected to be here Wednesday when practice resumes and should be in the lineup for Saturday's home opener against Carolina.
"Really, we're just looking to upgrade or quicken the speed of our transition game," Lawton said. "We think that's what Lukas brings to us more than anything. We like the way he moves the puck. We like the way he moves around the ice. We certainly wish Shane well. It's tough when you trade a guy that's as well liked as he was."
One question Lawton feels has been satisfied is Krajicek's health. The native of Prostejov, Czech Republic, played 39 games with Vancouver last season before suffering a shoulder injury Jan. 23 in a 3-2 win against St. Louis.
Krajicek, 25, was on the receiving end of a hefty check by Blues forward Keith Tkachuk that sent him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Lawton said he has proven durable through the preseason.
"He's 100 percent healthy, that's what's represented," Lawton said. "All the deals we do are always contingent upon medicals and things like that. I don't think anyone would lie about that when all the players have physicals."
Krajicek was part of the 2006 package deal that sent goalie Roberto Luongo from Florida to Vancouver in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi.
Lawton said Krajicek's acquisition did little to sway the salary cap and that he wasn't sure who he would pair with on defense. The Lightning has seven defensemen including Paul Ranger, who is awaiting medical clearance to return from offseason shoulder surgery.
"He may be back this weekend, he may be back in two weeks," Lawton said of Ranger. "That's just part of the game. This organization's not going to rush players back until they're 100 percent ready."
O'Brien, 25, said he was not surprised by the trade.
"I just didn't feel things were going in the right direction here," O'Brien said. "They brought in some new people. I could see it coming. I'm not stupid."
Krajicek sounded encouraged about his new opportunity with Tampa Bay.
"They (Vancouver management) told me that Tampa wanted me for quite some time," Krajicek told CKNW-AM in Vancouver. "They said I would play more minutes there and in every way it should better for me."
THREE TO NORFOLK: Lawton had several conversations with Ramo during the preseason, and told him it would be difficult to make the club this season.
Ramo, 22, was on the roster for the European trip as a precaution, but next year could be different.
"Karri had a terrific camp," Lawton said. "He played two games. They were both stellar. … We believe in him as a player. I feel even stronger about that now.
"He'll be a starter in the National Hockey League sooner than people would think."
Lawton also praised Mihalik as a pleasant surprise.
"He wasn't on the radar here," Lawton said. "He's a great kid. He's got some little nuances to work on. You don't see guys his size move as well as he does in this league very often."
Simek, 21, played 66 games with Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, notching seven goals and 17 assists.
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.