Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning trades Blair Jones to Calgary Flames for defenseman

MONTREAL — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was busy Friday augmenting his injury-depleted roster.

He didn't make any major moves — and none are expected in the near future, especially on the goaltending front — but Tampa Bay could use a boost as it sits 12th in the Eastern Conference, eight points out of the final playoff spot.

With defenseman Victor Hedman (concussion) out indefinitely, Yzerman believed the Lightning needed to get bigger on the blue line. So he acquired 6-foot-3, 205-pound defenseman Brendan Mikkelson from the Flames for center Blair Jones.

Mikkelson, 24, who has played in 86 games (six assists and 40 penalty minutes), is a strong skater who provides depth and size, Yzerman said. He has spent this season in the AHL. Jones, 25, has two goals and two assists in 22 games while also spending time in the AHL.

Rookie wing Brett Connolly, who has rejoined the Lightning after helping lead Canada to bronze at the world junior championship, will provide a boost to the offense and power play.

His return is needed considering the Lightning lost wings Adam Hall and J.T. Wyman to upper-body injuries during Thursday's 4-1 loss to Ottawa. Yzerman said neither will play tonight against Montreal.

Yzerman indicated Hall could be out a while pending an evaluation. Wyman's injury is more clear-cut, he said, and the rookie might not miss much time.

Wing Ryan Malone (lower body), who has missed the past two games, could play tonight. But forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie was called up from AHL Norfolk just in case. Defenseman Evan Oberg was sent down.

Connolly, 19, who played a top-six role with Tampa Bay before leaving for the tournament in Canada last month, likely gained confidence from the experience. He racked up five goals and six points in six pressure-packed games.

"I thought Brett had a really good tournament," Yzerman said. "He was used in a little different role for him, which I think was very good. He was on the penalty kill. He did a good job there.

"They asked him to play on somewhat of a checking line, crash and bang, and he did a good job at that."

The trade for Mikkelson won't create shock waves, but it's the kind of move Yzerman is ready to make: one involving "similar assets," two young players "knocking on the NHL door."

That's why even as the Lightning goaltenders have struggled with inconsistency during the season's first half, the team will stick with the tandem of Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson, at least for the time being.

Garon is coming off a strong run of quality starts, Yzerman said, and Roloson can "build off" Thursday, his first start since Dec. 12, during which he allowed three goals on 23 shots.

Plus, Yzerman said, "to get something, you have to give up something." And though he is prepared to do so, the deal has to make sense.

"We're going to do everything we can to make the playoffs this year," Yzerman said. "But the biggest picture is trying to get to being a perennial playoff team. We can't do that if we trade away our draft picks for unrestricted free agents or trade away our prospects for unrestricted free agents we're not going to re-sign.

"We need those young guys. We need those draft picks to turn into players for us to build our depth. You see that in our squad right now. We don't have a lot of depth. And the way you do that is to draft players and develop them in the organization, and that takes time."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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