Sunday, July 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Time will judge Lightning trade inaction

TAMPA

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, which beat the Lightning in the final, made a few moves before Monday's trade deadline, including acquiring forward Andrew Ladd.

The Panthers, whom Tampa Bay is battling for first place in the Atlantic Division, added several players, including former Lightning wing Teddy Purcell.

The Rangers snatched Hurricanes captain Eric Staal.

But the Lightning, which may be in its final months with captain Steven Stamkos, did nothing.

Was it a mistake? Not necessarily. First, it's not like general manager Steve Yzerman didn't try to improve his club. He wanted to address the power play but said that type of impact player wasn't available. With limited salary cap space, he didn't have much to work with, nor did he find teams interested in taking on contracts with term, Yzerman said.

Then there's this: The Lightning, which came within two wins of hoisting the Cup in June, is one of the hottest teams in hockey. It is on a franchise-record nine-game winning streak, its first such streak since winning eight straight during its 2004 Cup run. It is 21-6-0 since the start of 2016 and entered Saturday just two points off the pace of last season's club-record-setting season.

"I feel like our team probably has that swagger back that we had last year," veteran defenseman Matt Carle said. "So it's good timing, and obviously management is confident in our groups (because it didn't do) anything over the trade deadline. We're a confident group. We know what we're capable of."

Yzerman's biggest trade chip was suspended wing Jonathan Drouin, who requested a trade in November and since January has refused to play until he gets one. But Yzerman was going to trade the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013 only if he could get something that would help his team now and for the playoffs. And Yzerman said most of his talks with the interested teams — believed to number 10 to 15 — revolved around future considerations (draft picks, prospects), and he could likely get those if he deals Drouin before the June draft.

Yzerman said he had opportunities to make a move at the deadline but "you've got to pay a lot." Apparently, the price wasn't right. We'll know by June if Yzerman was right.

"Last year we made a bunch of deals, and you're worried, 'Boy, I hope this works out,' " Yzerman said. "And now you don't do anything and hope it works out. So we'll see."

DROUIN UPDATE: Though Yzerman said the door is open for Drouin to return, he was referring to AHL Syracuse, not the Lightning. A reunion with the latter appears highly unlikely. Yzerman even said he's not expecting Drouin to want to return to the AHL. ESPN reporter Pierre LeBrun made an interesting comment on a Toronto radio station last week: "My phone lit up on trade deadline day after Drouin wasn't traded with hockey execs around the league who applauded Yzerman. At end of day, every other team is saying, 'We don't want a 20-year-old coming on our team and dictating terms, either, ' "

NUTS AND BOLTS: The Lightning has an NHL-most 10 players on initial rosters for September's World Cup, and you'd have to think it might get more, with center Tyler Johnson and maybe wing Ryan Callahan drawing consideration for the United States. … Can't argue with the success of the Lightning's players-only meetings this season. The team won 10 of 11 after a self-critique film session (set up by coaches) Jan. 5 and then won seven in a row after a postgame meeting following a Feb. 18 shootout win over the Jets.

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