The Lightning needs an upgrade on its blue line, of that there is little debate. And unless the goaltending stiffens a bit, an argument might be made it needs help there, too.
But after only a quarter of the season, the timing and economics of making a move might not compute.
Almost every team still is in the playoff hunt, so teams are not yet motivated to trade players they might not sign for next season.
Three-quarters of salaries still have to be paid. In other words, if the Lightning wants a serious upgrade, it will have to take on a serious contract. Considering the team is about $3 million or so under the $64.3 million salary cap, taking on such a contract means giving one up in return, and Tampa Bay doesn't have a lot of depth from which to deal.
General manager Steve Yzerman could trade draft choices or prospects, but with the organization trying to build depth, that is not an attractive option.
The model, then, might look like last season's, when Yzerman traded in January for goaltender Dwayne Roloson and in February for defenseman Eric Brewer.
"In general, teams aren't looking to take on contracts, take on money," Yzerman said. "It's hard to find a fit with teams because teams don't want to give up their draft picks. Teams don't want to give up their young guys. It's hard to make a deal."
Besides, Yzerman isn't a hair-trigger kind of manager, though a severe losing jag might change the time line.
In general, though, "I never believe you do something just to do something," Yzerman said. "You just have to assess your team."
"We're a better team than we have shown," he said.
"We've been inconsistent. We've had some very good games and done a lot of good things, but as a team, we have to improve our team defense. That's not a critique of our defense. It's just as a team, collectively, we have to be better.
"We have higher expectations, and some of our players are not playing at the level they were at last year. We are not as deep as we were last year, and we are hoping that our players will elevate their play."