For a team expected to be atop the Atlantic division, this season has been a disappointing one for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With his team outside the playoffs looking in, the General Manager of the Lightning Steve Yzerman needs to take a good look at his team and decide what moves need to be made so his team is back in the hunt next season.
The most prevalent issue for Yzerman to solve is what to do with his starting goalie Ben Bishop. Bishop’s contact ends after this season and it has been consensus around the league that he will be starting for another team come playoff time. While his trade is expected it very well may not happen. The trade market right now is flooded with available goaltenders but not many teams particularly want one. Yzerman might not get much back for Bishop outside future draft picks but expect the goalie to be traded nonetheless.
Another player that is almost certainly going to be moved from the team in center Brian Boyle. Boyle’s contract also runs out at the end of the year and is the kind of player that any team in the playoffs would love to have. A hard-nosed, defensive center with veteran leadership, the Lightning will surely have many suitors when it comes to Boyle. So far the team most interested in Boyle is the Edmonton Oilers, although many more teams are sure to inquire with Yzerman on the price of the experienced forward.
It would not be shocking if the team moves a few of its depth players like Erik Condra or J.T. Brown. These players could fetch draft picks from Stanley Cup contending teams and are easily replaceable by the Lightning. Both of those two are also making over $1 million per year and trading them away would help the team pay for Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathan Drouin whose contracts are all up at the end of the season.
Outside of these few moves the Tampa Bay Lightning should not be expected to make much noise come the trade deadline. They are, at their core, a good team having a bad year. What Yzerman could do besides make these moves is to make trades that put the Lightning in the playoffs now. The Atlantic division is fairly weak and it would not take much for this team to be right back in the playoff picture. The Lightning could make some moves to improve their offensive depth by trading picks and prospects that very well may catapult them over other teams in the standings.
Most likely the Lightning will stay quiet March 1st outside of Bishop and Boyle. Yzerman knows that collecting depth pieces will not suddenly make this team a Stanley Cup contender this year. Rather, the team needs to recollect over the summer and pick up some free agents that better round out their team. The Lightning are still a young team that will remain competitive for years to come. Making a splash at the deadline that damages the team’s future is not in Yzerman’s best interest.