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Stanley Cup chance worth cost of Lightning trades

Fans welcome Braydon Coburn, front, during warmups for his first Lightning game Tuesday.
Fans welcome Braydon Coburn, front, during warmups for his first Lightning game Tuesday.
Published Mar. 8, 2015

TAMPA

It's hard not to see the parallels.

When the Lightning acquired defenseman Braydon Coburn on Monday from the Flyers, it sparked a flashback. Just like Tampa Bay did in 2004 in obtaining defenseman Darryl Sydor, the Lightning brought in a veteran, left-shot defenseman at the trade deadline. Coincidentally, both switched from No. 5 to No. 55 upon arriving in Tampa Bay.

In each case, a first-round draft pick was moved, center Alexander Svitov (No. 3 overall in 2001) to Columbus for Sydor, wing Brett Connolly (sixth overall in 2010) to Boston in a trade that was contingent on Coburn's being done.

We know how it ended in 2004, with Sydor being a key piece in the Lightning's Stanley Cup run.

"I don't think it's that much of a stretch to draw the comparison," said former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said, who made the Sydor deal. "Let's just hope, as Yogi Berra might say, that it's deja vu all over again."

Whether Coburn's arrival turns into a parade in Tampa remains to be seen. But the bottom line is the Lightning got the veteran defenseman it needed to make a deep playoff run. Coburn, 30, has size (6 feet 5, 220 pounds), skating ability and playoff experience (72 games). He can play 20 minutes a game, face opposing team's top lines and make a sometimes leaky blue line thicker.

"He's made our team better," coach Jon Cooper said.

"He fits in perfectly with our group," defenseman Victor Hedman said.

Yzerman admittedly paid a premium to get Coburn, reluctantly giving up a first- and a third-round draft pick this year, plus injured defenseman Radko Gudas. But getting two second-round picks from the Bruins for Connolly helped ease that loss.

Considering how expensive defensemen were on the market, with rentals netting first-round picks and prospects, this was the cost of doing business. And Coburn was more valuable because he has one more year (at $4.5 million) on his contract, with Yzerman hinting the defenseman could be part of the Lightning's future, too.

You might not like getting rid of Connolly, a skilled forward who is capable of scoring 25 goals a season. But with a deep Lightning forward group, Connolly was a third-line wing who could be a free agent after this season.

With more prospects on their way, including NHL-ready center Vladislav Namestnikov, Connolly became expendable. And after losing right wing Richard Panik on waivers before the season, the Lightning did not want to lose Connolly for nothing.

Though Tampa Bay players felt it was a bittersweet day with friends Connolly and Gudas departing, the deals provided a boost to the locker room, knowing management is going for it.

"We want to win, and we want to win now," captain Steven Stamkos said. "You saw a lot of teams in the East get better, and we added a piece we thought could make our team better, and it already has. As a player, all you want is your ownership group and management group to give you the best chance to win, and (Yzerman has) done that by putting together the team that we have.

"It's up to us now."

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.