TAMPA — When the Lightning met at midyear, they identified a target area at the trade deadline: two physical forwards, ideally one being a big center.
Julien BriseBois said they specifically identified Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. They play different games, but both are physical forwards and Goodrow is a big center at 6 feet 2, 215 pounds. The trick was that neither was necessarily going to be available.
To get the players they wanted, the Lightning paid a premium: both of their first-round picks in 2020 plus highly-touted prospect Nolan Foote.
BriseBois reiterated that if you’re a buyer at the deadline, you’re probably going to pay a premium. He knew he had to be aggressive, and was.
“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he said. “I decided I was going to take the risk of being damned because I did. We aggressively pursued these players and we paid what we had to pay to get them and make us the best team possible.”
Goodrow came on Monday’s trade deadline from San Jose with Philadelphia’s third-round pick in return for the Lightning’s first and Anthony Greco, who Tampa Bay got from Florida in an AHL trade on Thursday. The Lightning were at the contract limit and needed to move someone; San Jose asked for Greco.
That trade came together shortly after 2:30 p.m. and was announced almost two hours after the 3 p.m. deadline.
Getting Coleman from New Jersey on Feb. 16 required Vancouver’s first-round pick, which the Lightning had from the J.T. Miller trade in June, and Foote.
When Jan Rutta was hurt Feb. 4 and then Ryan McDonagh two days later, the Lightning also started looking for a defenseman, preferably a right shot. Zach Bogosian became available when his contract was terminated by Buffalo.
And so the Lightning have their team.
They looked at other options for physical forwards, but these were the two they felt fit this organization best. Part of that is because of how they play — Coleman fitting a model this team likes and Goodrow adding size at center — but there’s more at play as well.
The 2020 trade deadline was almost as much about next season as the deep run the Lightning hope to make this year. All three players set the Lightning up for the playoffs, but they also make sense with the team’s coming salary cap crunch.
Bogosian signed a one-year contract. Coleman and Goodrow are under contract for one more year with very cap-friendly terms, which is part of why the trades cost so much. Coleman’s cap hit is $1.3 million and Goodrow $925,000.
The Lightning have to re-sign pending restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev this summer. Coleman and Goodrow are both good players who leave salary cap space for those players.
BriseBois said whoever the Lightning looked at “ideally, they’d be signed to contracts and provide really good value from a cap standpoint.”
He can’t quantify how much, but feels the Lightning is a better team, harder to play against as of Monday than it was two weeks ago.
“We needed a big, physical center and (Goodrow) brings that,” BriseBois said. “He has the size, he also has the physicality. He plays with an edge.”
Goodrow has played in a bigger role, playing with skilled players, as San Jose has dealt with injuries. Over the last few months, someone on the Lightning’s staff has watched just about all of his games live or on video.
“He’s been matched up against some really good players and has handled it really well,” BriseBois said. “So I think he’s somewhat of an underrated player.”
He commented that while the Goodrow brings a different profile, Coleman fits the team’s style like some of the players they already have and “we love those guys.”
Coleman is a speedy, relentless forward. He plays similarly to Yanni Gourde, hard around the net, battling, digging pucks out.
As they brought in two players in the last two days, the Lightning re-assigned Cameron Gaunce and Mitchell Stephens to the AHL. That move makes both players eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs (another piece of the 3 p.m. deadline).
They can be recalled, but NHL teams only have three recalls for the rest of the regular season. Now that the Lightning have 13 forwards, and seven to nine defensemen, they have a full complement in the NHL.
That number of defensemen is vague as Rutta, McDonagh and Cernak are all injured. Cernak could be available for tonight’s game against Toronto. McDonagh could return in 10 to 14 days and Rutta likely needs another two to three weeks.
But the Lightning has the reinforcements now.