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Yzerman: Lightning won't trade just to trade

Tampa Bay might be among several teams looking at 27-year-old Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry, left.
Tampa Bay might be among several teams looking at 27-year-old Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry, left.
Published Mar. 1, 2015

SUNRISE — With the trade deadline looming Monday, the Lightning would still like to add a veteran defenseman, preferably a right-handed shot.

Whether a deal comes to fruition remains to be seen.

"It's 50-50," general manager Steve Yzerman said Saturday.

But with the asking prices pretty high so far — veteran Andrej Sekera went for a conditional first-round draft pick and a prospect — Yzerman isn't desperate enough to pay more than he's comfortable with.

"I'm not going to force anything," Yzerman said. "We'll do what makes sense. I'd like to do it, but not going to just do it to do it. There are deals you'd consider, 'Hey, I overpaid, but I had to do it.' I don't know that that player is out there."

The Lightning, which entered Saturday second in the Atlantic Division and tied for third in the Eastern Conference, is in a pretty good spot. It is expecting to get veteran defenseman Matt Carle (abdominal surgery) back in a couple of weeks. But Yzerman said he doesn't know if Radko Gudas (knee surgery) will return even for the playoffs.

That leaves Tampa Bay relying on four young defensemen: Andrej Sustr, Mark Barberio and rookies Luke Witkowski and Nikita Nesterov. Together they've played 217 NHL games. Though Yzerman has been pleased with their progress, he'd like a little more depth on defense.

"That's four young guys," Yzerman said. "I like our group. But if you're going to have a long playoff run, you're probably going to have to deal with injuries. These young guys are doing a nice job, but I'd like to add preferably somebody with experience."

The Lightning hasn't been the only team looking to add to its blue line, and the cost hasn't been cheap. Even 39-year-old Kimmo Timonen, who hasn't played this season because of blood clots, netted a second-round pick and a conditional fourth-rounder from Chicago to get him from the Flyers. On the forward side, the Devils netted a second-round pick and a conditional third in 2016 for Jaromir Jagr, 43.

Tampa Bay has two first-round picks this year, but Yzerman is hesitant to give one up, especially for a player entering free agency this summer.

"I didn't say I'd never do it," Yzerman said. "But unless something changes, for the unrestricted free agents that are there that might be available, I just don't see myself giving up a first-round pick."

Who else is left? The Oilers' Jeff Petry, a right-handed shot, is supposedly available, but he's drawing interest from several teams. There's the Coyotes' Zbynek Michalek, or the Lightning could try to pry right-shot Eric Gryba, 26, from the Senators.

"It's got to make our team better," Yzerman said. "If it's not making our team better, it's got to make our team better in the future without hurting us today."

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