EDMONTON — When the Lightning included a first-round draft pick in the trade for forward Barclay Goodrow, some fans on social media ridiculed the deal as a “massive overpayment” or “a joke," while others laughed at Tampa Bay’s apparent folly.
But the Lightning are the ones laughing now.
The 27-year-old forward is exactly what the team was missing.
“I’m a big believer in our management and (general manager) Julien (BriseBois). You have to give assets, and draft picks are assets — there’s no question,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said about the trade-deadline deal that sent prospect Anthony Greco and a 2020 first-round pick to San Jose for Goodrow and a third-round pick.
"But I don’t think you can value that saying that if it’s a first-round pick, you have to get a 50-goal scorer. It’s not how it works. You’re trying to build your own team. There’s a reason Barclay Goodrow’s are at a premium and you have to give a first-round pick for him.”
When you look at a stats sheet, Goodrow’s name doesn’t jump off the paper. He’s never scored more than eight goals in a season throughout his six-year career. He’s never been a top-line forward.
It’s about the intangibles he brings to the table each and every shift. The Lightning have sorely lacked a player like Goodrow on their roster, and it’s part of the reason they’ve had some playoff heartbreaks over the last several seasons as Stanley Cup contenders.
But Goodrow has been a key ingredient to the team’s playoff success this year. He’s been a perfect fit alongside linemates Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman.
One of his biggest strengths is his penalty-killing abilities. The Sharks were the top penalty-killing team in the NHL, and Goodrow was one of the biggest reasons why.
He’s continued his strong penalty-killing prowess for the Lightning in these playoffs, as Tampa Bay had killed off 83.9 percent of its penalties entering Game 5 Tuesday night. Goodrow played a big role as the Lightning shut down one of the best power-play units in the conference semifinal series against Boston and have only allowed the Islanders one goal on 14 power-play chances in the conference final.
Goodrow is also among the league leaders in blocked shots and hits in the playoffs, while adding one goal and three assists in 17 playoff games.
“San Jose clearly didn’t want to give him up and if they were going to give him up, you were going to have to pay a price for it. We were okay with that. Everything else is like white noise. It’s about how are we going to build our team?,” said Cooper. "With Barclay, he’s exactly what we needed. We needed that scrappy, energy, gamer. He epitomizes ‘team’.
“He will step up and block that shot that you needed. He will take that (important) faceoff needed. He will step up and fight a guy if he has to defend a teammate. He’s a player that drags teams through the fight, and you can’t have enough of those guys.”
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Oftentimes, when a team gives up an asset for a first-round pick, it’s for an unrestricted free agent. But Goodrow is on an extreme value contract of just $925,000, and he’s signed through the 2020-21 season.
To get Goodrow in Lightning colors for at least one more year at that bargain price will help keep key restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak in the fold.
“You have to make tough decisions; there’s no standing on the fence, and Julien doesn’t stand on the fence. He listens, he takes in information and he makes a decision, and I don’t think you can ever second-guess a guy who does that,” said Cooper. “I trust everything he does. When he makes a decision, he’s all in, and as you can see now, the decisions he’s made since he’s been GM have been great.”