Thursday, April 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Trade might be tough to pull off for Lightning

Without doing anything at all before Wednesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Lightning is set to make a huge addition to its lineup.

Because if all goes as hoped, star center Steven Stamkos, out 44 games with a broken right tibia, will be back in action as soon as Thursday at home against the Sabres.

Perhaps that is why general manager Steve Yzerman was so non-committal about what he might do before the deadline.

"If there was something other than Stammer coming back we would look at it," he said.

As it always seems to be with Tampa Bay, a top-four defenseman is at the top of the wish list. But Yzerman is in a difficult position when it comes to pulling off that kind of trade.

With what appears a lessening chance of trading captain Marty St. Louis — it is believed he would waive his no-move clause to go to the Rangers — and a reluctance to deal away promising youngsters such as Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio and Nikita Kucherov, Yzerman has little with which to pull off a move for high-end return.

Yzerman said he is not opposed to trading prospects or minor-leaguers which, by association, makes former first-round picks Brett Connolly and Vlad Namestnikov potentially interesting chips.

But as Yzerman reminded, "Generally, teams aren't trading guys in their prime or guys with term on their contracts for young guys who are playing well in the minors. You're not getting an NHL player for a kid you've got in the minors. They're part of a bigger package, maybe."

In other words, Yzerman said, "I'm not sure if I have the ability to do anything to improve the team right now."

There are high-impact defensemen who could be had in trade, though each comes with caveats. For instance:

• The Islanders' Andrew MacDonald, 27, plays in all situations, leads all defensemen with 198 blocked shots and the prorated portion of his $575,000 salary would be a steal. But his contract is up, there is no guarantee he will sign and Yzerman, generally, doesn't go in for rentals.

• Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff, 31, who recently submitted a list of eight teams to which he would accept a trade (no word if the Lightning is included) is strong offensively, weaker in the defensive zone and has seven years on his contract. That is a long time to get locked in.

• Vancouver's Alex Edler, 27, who also plays in all situations, has five years left on his deal with an annual $5 million cap hit.

Players such as those aren't given away, either, which brings us back to what Yzerman can offer, especially if St. Louis is committed to moving only to New York.

Will Yzerman be satisfied with his addition of depth defenseman Mike Kostka, whom he claimed off waivers? Does Gudas' injury, if serious, change Yzerman's calculation?

"I'm not going to do something just to do it," Yzerman said. "This team has played hard. These young guys, our veterans, have done a very good job, goaltending has been solid. So if (we have) the same group after the trade deadline, I'm very pleased with the team."

Especially with Stamkos about to return.

Gudas out: Gudas likely will miss tonight's game with the Blues at Scottrade Center because of a lower-body injury sustained in Sunday's 6-3 loss at Colorado. He is day-to-day and will be reevaluated Wednesday back in Tampa, Yzerman said. Gudas left in the second period favoring his left leg after colliding with an Avalanche player.

Move: Goalie Anders Lindback was recalled from AHL Syracuse after a two-game conditioning stint. Kristers Gudlevskis was sent to the Crunch.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

 
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