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  1. Lightning

Why trade of Eric Brewer made sense for both sides

Veteran defenseman Eric Brewer spent most of the past two weeks watching from the press box, a healthy scratch in four of the last five games.

It was a tough situation for the 35-year-old, though coaches said Brewer handled it as well as he could.

But it wasn't going to get any easier to crack the lineup, especially with Victor Hedman returning as early as Saturday.

General manager Steve Yzerman reached out to Brewer earlier this week, with the veteran saying it a great and "very open" conversation.

"He wanted to play," Yzerman said.

Brewer didn't ask to be dealt, but was willing to waive his no-trade clause, giving Yzerman a chance to explore his options from a list of teams. And the Lightning found a match Friday, sending Brewer to Anaheim for a third-round pick in 2015.

It will give Brewer, in the final year of his contract, a chance to play, and creates a roster spot the Lightning needed for Hedman, with Yzerman calling it a trade that worked out for both parties.

"I'm very excited," Brewer said before boarding a plane in Tampa. "My feeling is I want to play, I feel good. I have games to offer. Clearly with the way this team is going, the way it's been working out lately, it wasn't going to be the best option."

The Lightning could have opened a roster spot by sending Vladislav Namestnikov or Cedric Paquette back to AHL Syracuse, as they were the only players that didn't require waivers. But both rookies deserved to stay, plus this deal gives the Lightning some cap flexibility, though it will retain 26-percent of Brewer's $3.875 milllion cap hit. It also adds to Tampa Bay's large supply of 2015 draft picks, now having two picks in the first, third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. The Ducks' third-rounder the Lightning received is actually Edmonton's pick, so it should be early in the third round and help make up for not having a second rounder.

Brewer was in his fifth season with Tampa Bay, having played a big role in the team's run to the Eastern Conference final in 2011 after getting acquired from the Blues. He served as an alternate captain last season.

But after the Lightning acquired left-shooting defenseman Jason Garrison from Vancouver in June, and defenseman Anton Stralman in July, Brewer found himself a healthy scratch the first two games of the season. He played 16 straight when Hedman was hurt, but has been out lately as the Lightning wanted to use Mark Barberio, who played his best game of the season Wednesday.

Associate coach Rick Bowness said sitting was "eating (Brewer) up inside," but he didn't complain.

"I don't think I handled it that well to be honest," Brewer said. "I think we agree to disagree on the situation, that's the team's choice. It's up to me to make it easier for them to make a decision."

Said Yzerman: "He worked hard every day, kept a stiff upper lip, stayed positive and played well when he was in. It's not easy on those guys, they're proud guys, they want to play, they're confident. It's a hard thing for them to deal with and he was very professional about it and handled it as good as you can."

Aside from the seven defensemen the Lightning is carrying, there are only a couple options at AHL Syracuse with NHL experience (J.P. Cote and Matt Corrente). Yzerman said they could look into adding another defenseman down the line, or "maybe something bigger."

But Brewer said he enjoyed his time in Tampa overall.

"It's been good, a good opportunity to play and live in an area that we never thought we would," Brewer said. "It's been good to be a part of a team that's trending in the right direction, you want to be a part of. I'm disappointed I won't be a part of it. The team I'm going to is heading in the right direction too. We'll see how that goes and hopefully I'll just blend in there."

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