TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been looking for a defenseman who could help it match up better with opposing teams' top lines during its playoff push.
And he believes he found one in veteran Eric Brewer, the Blues' captain, who was acquired Friday for a 2011 third-round draft pick and defense prospect Brock Beukeboom, an unsigned draft pick.
Brewer, 31, helps fill the void created by the absence of Mike Lundin, who is out indefinitely with an abdominal injury.
Yzerman said Lundin's injury didn't have a bearing on the trade because he expects the defenseman back in the coming weeks, but he believes Brewer can solidify the blue line.
"He's a very poised defenseman, a big guy who moves well," Yzerman said. "He makes the good first pass. He's a steady, reliable, good defenseman. I think he's a very versatile guy who can play either side, a valuable player."
Brewer, a Vernon, British Columbia, native who had to waive his no-trade clause, said he is "very, very excited" to play for the Lightning and get a chance at the postseason for the first time since 2003 while with the Oilers. (Brewer was out after back surgery when the Blues made it in 2008-09.)
"It's been a while since I've been in the playoffs. It's been too long, and I just wanted an opportunity at that," Brewer said.
"Tampa is obviously a very good team. They play well, and there's a reason why they are second in the conference. They're a very good skating team. They move the puck. Those are both things that are important parts of my game."
Brewer spent five-plus seasons with the Blues after being acquired in a 2005 trade that sent then-St. Louis defenseman Chris Pronger to Edmonton. He said Blues GM Doug Armstrong approached him this week about a potential move.
Brewer had been playing well, with eight goals and 14 points while playing an average 22 minutes a game. He was plus-1 for a team that entering Friday had been outscored by 16 goals.
But the Blues, 26-21-9 and 13th in the Western Conference after a 3-0 win over the Sabres on Friday, are looking to the future. The Lightning drafted Beukeboom, 20, in the third round in 2010. Playing in juniors this season for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario league, he has eight points and 54 penalty minutes in 44 games.
The deal made sense for Yzerman, who said he "had no intention" of trading a first- or second-round pick but that despite being in first place in the Southeast Division, the team has to improve.
Brewer can be an unrestricted free agent after the season. He is making $4.5 million this season. Prorated for the rest of the season, he is owed about $1.3 million.
Brewer — who welcomed a baby girl, Hadley, two weeks ago to go along with 3-year-old daughter Reese — said he'd have an "open mind" going into free agency. Yzerman said Brewer, his Canadian teammate in the 2002 Olympics, will be a "hot commodity."
Yzerman is looking forward to seeing the impact Brewer makes, starting tonight against the Panthers at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I've felt the best I've felt in a while," Brewer said. "I've skated much better this year, a little bit quicker, a little bit stronger."
And the Lightning believes it has gotten a little bit better.
MISCELLANY: Defenseman Mike Vernace was reassigned to AHL Norfolk.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.