Julien BriseBois saw a move, and he made it. The Lightning general manager added an “energizer bunny” in forward Blake Coleman to the roster Sunday.
The Lightning sent the equivalent of two first-round draft picks to the Devils in the trade. They gave up Nolan Foote, whom they picked 27th overall last year, and a conditional first-round pick they got from the Canucks in return for J.T. Miller in June.
“We are all the stronger because we’ve added Blake Coleman,” BriseBois said on a conference call. “Not only does he make us a better, more competitive team this year, but he’ll make us a better, more competitive team next year as well.”
Coleman, a 28-year-old who can play any forward position, has another year on his contract at $1.8 million. That he has another season and is not just a rental player who can become a free agent this summer was a “significant factor” for BriseBois.
Coleman’s high production for a low salary cap hit was another. He was having a career year with New Jersey, with 31 points (21 goals) in 57 games.
“I’m excited to play for a contender and a team that’s on such a roll,” said Coleman, who goes from the fourth-worst team in the league to the second best with the trade deadline a week from Monday. “I’m excited to meet these guys and play for a Cup. Obviously, that’s what the dream is.”
He will miss Monday night’s game in Colorado but planned to join the Lightning in Las Vegas to play Thursday.
BriseBois listed Coleman’s strengths: quick, powerful skating; being a “relentless puckhound;” hitting; shot blocking, and a heavy, physical game.
Coleman was on the Devils’ top power-play unit, but he is also one of the league’s top penalty killers. The Lightning have the best penalty kill in the league, but that’s an area a team always likes to add to.
“He’s the energizer bunny out there,” BriseBois said. “There aren’t too many players who bring in the value that he does that come with a cap hit of $1.8 million.”
Trade speculation started swirling around Coleman when he didn’t take the ice for warmups for the Devils’ game with the Blue Jackets on Sunday.
Coleman is familiar with the Lightning from playing against them three times a year. He also knows coach Jon Cooper from playing against his team in the United States Hockey League in 2009-10.
“I’m familiar with the way (Cooper) runs his ship,” Coleman said. “They’re bringing me in because I have a playoff-type game, a will to compete and a will to win.”
The Lightning paid a high price for Coleman. They already had seven players capable of playing on the top two lines. Coleman could go from a top-line, first-power-play guy with the Devils to a third liner for the Lightning.
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In December, BriseBois said prices for players tend to be high as the trade deadline approaches. On Sunday, he reiterated that point.
“You’ll have to pay a hefty premium, and we certainly did that (Sunday),” he said. “But we could afford to do so. What I felt we couldn’t afford was not to give this group of players every chance to have as good a spring as possible. I made the decision to pay the price.”
The Lightning could afford the move because of the Miller trade. That move was really about freeing salary cap space to re-sign Brayden Point.
The Canucks gave up a 2019 third-round pick, which became Hugo Alnefelt, who could be Andrei Vasilevskiy’s successor in net, and a conditional first-rounder. The first-round pick will be this year if Vancouver, in second in the tight Pacific Division, makes the playoffs. If the Canucks don’t make the playoffs, the pick transfers to 2021.
BriseBois is still looking for opportunities to improve the Lightning, but he said he wouldn’t hold his breath for another acquisition. Trades might be more frequent this time of year, but he said they still aren’t common.