1. Lightning

Yzerman: Trade-deadline focuses are Drouin, power play

GM Steve Yzerman says he prefers to trade wing Jonathan Drouin sooner rather than later.
GM Steve Yzerman says he prefers to trade wing Jonathan Drouin sooner rather than later.
Published Feb. 25, 2016

TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman declined to handicap the likelihood he makes a deal before Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

But it's clear Yzerman would like to move suspended wing Jonathan Drouin by then if he could. And Yzerman will likely have an opportunity. He says he has talked to a lot of teams about the 2013 No. 3 overall pick, who remains at home in Montreal, refusing to play after a trade request. Yzerman is believed to have several offers on the table.

"I definitely prefer to deal him sooner than later; it would be better for everyone," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday. "A lot of things factor into it when making the trade; (there are) a lot of things to consider here. But No. 1 is 'Can I do something involving Jonathan that benefits the team that makes us better right now that helps us for the playoffs?' I'd certainly like to do that."

Yzerman said his focus is improving the power play, which entered Wednesday 26th in the league at 17.5 percent, whether it means adding a forward or a defenseman.

"We all have needs," Yzerman said. "If I could do something to help our power play, I'd like to do that. And that's going to be difficult to do."

One issue is the salary cap. The Lightning has approximately only $1.5 million of cap space available, so taking on another salary would be hard unless one is moved out. That's why a lot of speculation surrounds veteran defenseman Matt Carle, who is due $5.5 million each of the next two seasons. Carle said Wednesday he had not been approached about a trade or his limited no-move clause.

"It's not just our salary cap, it's the team that you're trying to make a deal with, too," Yzerman said. "That's what everybody doesn't really understand. … It's got to work for both teams. … It proves challenging for everyone."

Yzerman believed the Lightning needed to boost its blue line at last year's deadline, and he dealt two regulars, defenseman Radko Gudas and 2010 first-round draft pick Brett Connolly, in separate deals, acquiring veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn.

Yzerman is generally hesitant to shake things up with a trade. He kept a group that reached the Stanley Cup final last season mostly intact through last summer.

"I've found it very difficult to trade core guys," Yzerman said. "And you have to give up something to get something, and it's hard to do. We're all trying to make trades where we're getting something we like, but none of us wants to give up anything that we like.

"Trading both of those players last year was difficult. … We had our reasons for doing it and were happy to acquire Braydon.

"Every time we talk about a trade with another team, you're hoping to give up as little as you can, but the reality is if you want something, you have to pay for it, and that's what you've got to do."

One core player definitely not going anywhere at the deadline is captain Steven Stamkos. Yzerman made that clear in a statement Feb. 15, saying he still hoped to do a contract extension with the All-Star, who is in the final year of his deal and can be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Stamkos has scored in four straight games, and the Lightning is 4-0-0 since the statement.

"I don't think taking pressure off is why we did it," Yzerman said. "Simply myself and 'Stammer' and (agents) Donnie Meehan and Mark Guy talked about it, and the reality is he's not going to be traded. The sooner we said that, it could end all the speculation and Stammer doesn't have to answer that question every day, and I think that just makes his life a little easier on a day-to-day basis.

"I'm not sure how much that (affected his play) — you have to ask Stammer — but he's certainly been productive."

The Lightning is in second place in the Atlantic Division, three points behind first-place Florida thanks to a four-game winning streak. Yzerman said he is pleased that his team has picked up its play after losing four of five and that it has played "reasonably well."

The power play will be the main deadline priority.

"I would like us to get more traffic in front of the net and shoot the puck," Yzerman said. "We just need to simplify it."

Or make a move.

Yzerman will be in Colorado this weekend for the Red Wings-Avalanche alumni game at Coors Field that precedes Saturday's outdoor game between the teams. When suggested that at least no deals will be made during the alumni game, Yzerman quipped. "Well, I wouldn't say that. There's between periods, can get stuff done."