Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning acquires defensemen Keith Aulie, Brian Lee and Mike Commodore

TAMPA — Sometimes the telephone phone just rings.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman had said he expected Monday to be quiet before the trade deadline. But then the Maple Leafs called, and the Senators.

Add the culmination of previous talks with the Red Wings and Tampa Bay was one of the league's busiest teams, making three deals before the 3 p.m. cutoff and transforming the blue line by acquiring defensemen Keith Aulie, Brian Lee and Mike Commodore.

"These three guys help us not only this year but moving forward," Yzerman said.

He didn't have to spend his high draft choices, either, leaving him with two first-round picks and up to four in the second in the June draft. Some could be used as summer trade bait to pursue a No. 1 goalie; there is speculation Yzerman likes Vancouver's Cory Schneider.

Yzerman said he had no talks Monday about goalies, but he still had plenty to fill his plate.

"Defensemen are hard to find," he said. "We're looking for young guys and for guys whose contracts are appropriate. That's not an easy thing to do."

Lee, 24, and Commodore, 32, will be available for tonight's home game with the Canadiens. It will be a few days before Aulie, 22, shows up because, coming from Toronto, he needs to square his visa, Yzerman said.

•••

Yzerman had no news about defenseman Victor Hedman, who is out with what might be a concussion. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, with a back injury, is out, too.

Enter Commodore, 6 feet 5, 235 pounds, to provide veteran depth. Commodore has been buried in Detroit this season and played just 17 games. Yzerman knows him from Canada's 2007 world championship team. "He's a big body and a good penalty killer," said Yzerman, who was Canada's GM. "And he's a great teammate."

He also was cheap. If the pending unrestricted free agent plays 15 games and Tampa Bay makes the playoffs, the Lightning owes a 2013 seventh-round pick — otherwise, nothing.

It took defenseman Matt Gilroy to get Lee, a pending restricted free agent drafted No. 9 overall in 2005. "We're getting a younger player who has a chance to grow into an NHL regular," Yzerman said. "He's a pretty big body. He moves well out there."

Lee, with five goals, 28 points in 167 NHL games, might have been miscast in Ottawa as an offensive, power-play defenseman, Yzerman said. "We see him as a stay-at-home guy."

•••

The Lightning thinks so highly of the 6-6, 217-pound Aulie, it gave up minor-league forward Carter Ashton, the 29th overall pick of 2009.

Yzerman does not like trading top prospects. "But if we're going to get a defenseman, we have to give a good asset. We have a lot of forwards. We don't have those D coming the next couple of years. How do we get them? We give up a good prospect."

"It's pretty exciting," said Aulie, a pending restricted free agent who has two assists in 17 NHL games. "I'm excited to come down and help the team."

He has an ally in coach Guy Boucher, who coached Aulie for Canada at the 2009 world junior championship and called him a potential shutdown defenseman. "He plays a very straightforward defensive game," Boucher said. "He's got a lot of reach. This is a terrific trade for us."

Yzerman said he previously discussed Aulie with Toronto GM Brian Burke, "and then I got a call from Toronto indicating they wanted to pursue it, and we got it done."

So much for his quiet day.

MINOR MOVES: Forward Brandon Segal was called up from AHL Norfolk. Trevor Smith, Mike Angelidis and Evan Oberg were sent down.

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