Are we nearing the end of a smiling Martin St. Louis era in Tampa Bay?
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a brutal stretch of games ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 5. The Bolts have four road games in six days before the deadline. During that time Tampa Bay will need to address their biggest needs.
The Lightning won’t have a long list of needs, but they will be buyers at the deadline for the first time in a few seasons. Health is one of the biggest concerns for Tampa Bay, but that isn’t something a trade can fix—usually.
With only a week left before the deadline, Tampa Bay will have some interesting decisions to make. Here are the Bolts’ five biggest needs ahead of the trade deadline.
The highest priority for the Bolts this week should be keeping St. Louis happy.
The last few weeks have been rather interesting for Lightning captain Martin St. Louis. After being left off Canada’s Olympic roster, rumors have swirled that he requested a move from Tampa Bay. He was eventually chosen as an injury replacement for Steven Stamkos and won a gold medal—but it’s far more complicated than that.
Since the Bolts have been somewhat quiet about the situation, little is known of the details. One thing is certain—the Lightning must do everything in their power to keep their captain and all-time scoring leader.
St. Louis means far more to this franchise and young group of players than can be put into statistics or records. The front office needs to do everything they can to keep him happy and in the blue and white.
The New York Rangers appear to be the front runners to land St. Louis if he leaves.
Let’s say that in those closed-door meetings, Martin St. Louis did ask for a trade and reiterated that to the front office upon his return from the Olympics. While this would be heartbreaking to the entire Lightning community, St. Louis deserves fan support regardless of the outcome.
The business side of things will be interesting. St. Louis would presumably want to be traded to a contender, but moving closer to his home in Connecticut could also be a factor. He does have a no-movement clause so he would need to approve any potential deal.
If he leaves Tampa Bay, the Lightning need to max-out their return for him.
Hopefully, they get a top-six winger and an entire American Hockey League team. On a more serious note, the Bolts need to look for a forward that will make an immediate impact for the playoff run and include a blue-chip prospect and/or draft picks.
If it was a possibility, Matt Moulson in Buffalo would be an interesting target.
Edmonton's Ales Hemsky could be sought after to join the Bolts and bolster the offense.
Tampa Bay’s main focus this week should be finding players that will make an impact immediately. The Lightning’s youth has done a great job of shouldering a load while the team wasn’t 100 percent. Still, playoff experience is invaluable.
A second-or third-line forward would be a nice addition for the Bolts. Again, Matt Moulson would be solid for the right price. Other names to consider would be Ales Hemsky in Edmonton, or Thomas Vanek in New York, to name a couple.
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will draw a lot of attention this week.
Improving the blue line is typically a priority for contenders. Whether it is adding depth or experience, sturdy defensemen come at a premium for the stretch run. Tampa Bay could have a need to improve their defense at the deadline.
Potential targets could be Dan Girardi with the Rangers or Andrew MacDonald with the Islanders. Both players will draw a lot of interest from the rest of the NHL, but Tampa Bay should be included in that mix. A young d-man like Jake Gardiner in Toronto could be a nice depth addition as well.
The Bolts do have some liabilities on their blue line. Sami Salo has been healthy this year, but the playoffs bring a new level of physicality. Radko Gudas is a penalty machine. Giving playoff teams power play opportunities is not a recipe for success.
The question would obviously turn to whom the Lightning would be willing to give up from their deep prospect pool.
Imagine the knowledge Ben Bishop would get from Martin Brodeur during the final few months of the season.
The last need for the Lightning on the trade front is a bit of a stretch. Ben Bishop has been solid, but his No. 2 has been less than stellar. The Bolts need a backup goaltender that could give him a breather occasionally in the final month of the season or during a seven-game series.
Immediately, my eyes shift to the living legend of goaltending—Martin Brodeur. How would that work? Send Anders Lindback and a draft pick or prospect to New Jersey to be the back up to Cory Schneider.
The Bolts would get Brodeur to not only provide a calming presence in the crease but in the dressing room as well. He is a rental player that would make sense while Kristers Gudlevskis and Andrey Vasilevskiy continue to gain experience.
It’s low on the totem pole, but bringing in a living legend would never hurt a team’s playoff push.