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Lightning add defense depth at NHL trade deadline

Tampa Bay finds ways to maneuver through cap issues to add pieces for another potential playoff run.
“History has proven that you will need depth on defense if you are going to have an extended playoff run,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement.
“History has proven that you will need depth on defense if you are going to have an extended playoff run,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 12
Updated Apr. 12

TAMPA — The Lightning came away from Monday’s trade deadline a deeper team, especially on the blue line.

Tampa Bay made its big move on Saturday, acquiring veteran defenseman David Savard in a three-team trade that cost it this year’s first-round selection and two other draft picks. And in the hours leading up to the deadline, the Lightning also added 28-year-old defenseman Fredrik Claesson from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for goaltending prospect Magnus Chrona.

For a team strapped by salary-cap constraints that created uncertainty about whether it would be able to make any trades at the deadline, the Lightning were able to add two pieces to their defense corps.

Savard, 30, joined the Lightning on Sunday night and participated in his first practice with the team on Monday in Nashville. Savard, who played his entire 10-year NHL career in Columbus, is expected to make his Tampa Bay debut Tuesday against the Predators.

Claesson, who played just four games for San Jose this season but has 159 games of NHL experience with four different teams, will be assigned to the Lightning’s taxi squad.

As a left-shot defenseman playing behind veterans who log major minutes, such as Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev; Claesson doesn’t figure to play much. Still, his acquisition gives the Lightning a balance of five left-shot defensemen and six right-shot defenseman with NHL experience.

“History has proven that you will need depth on defense if you are going to have an extended playoff run,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement.

The Lightning used nine different defensemen on their way to winning the Stanley Cup last postseason.

“Depth is key, especially if you want to make a deep run in the playoffs,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

With the offseason departures of veteran defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Braydon Coburn, the Lightning had to rely on youth this season.

Rookie Cal Foote’s minutes went up significantly, Andreas Borgman suddenly became a contributor after spending nearly the first 2-1/2 months on the taxi squad and rookie Ben Thomas recently joined the fold when veterans McDonagh, Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta were injured. Rutta, a veteran right-shot defenseman, was recently placed on long-term injured reserve.

Now the Lightning have put themselves in position to be more experienced on the blue line while also having given younger players valuable experience heading into a potential postseason run.

Tampa Bay went into the trade deadline not only hindered by the fact it had next to zero cap space to make a move but also unaware of how many teams would be willing to move players at the deadline.

The sellers emerged over the past five days, and once the Blue Jackets made Savard a healthy scratch on Thursday, he appeared to be on the move. Columbus also traded forward Nick Foligno to Toronto in a three-team trade with San Jose, a significant upgrade for a Maple Leafs team that could meet the Lightning in the playoff’s later rounds.

With several teams up against the cap, the key to getting deals done was finding teams willing to take on salary. It usually meant creating a three-time deal, which is what the Lightning did in acquiring Savard, using draft picks as assets to get Columbus and Detroit to assume much of his remaining salary.

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Note: The Lightning recalled Mitchell Stephens and Alex Barre-Boulet, providing forward options for Tuesday’s game in Nashville with captain Steven Stamkos expected to be out. Stephens, who has been out since the fourth game of the season, was in AHL Syracuse on a conditioning assignment. Barre-Boulet, who played in two games with the Lightning earlier this season, has eight goals and four assists in 10 games with the Crunch.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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