It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No not Christmas - NHL trade deadline week! We are a week away from the deadline and it’s time for the contenders to stock their rosters and those on the outside to plan for the future. Two guesses as to which category the Lightning belong in.
In anticipation to some wheeling and dealing on Channelside Drive I will breakdown the roster to see who is staying and who is going.
Not going anywhere (M*A*S*H Unit)
Paul Ranger - It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Ranger has been playing hurt all season. He never seemed comfortable following off-season surgery. A couple of extra months of rest and rehab will hopefully allow him to come back as the cornerstone of the blue line next season.
Andrej Meszaros - The Slovakian defenseman has suffered through a tough season. Season ending surgery capped off a season that saw him on pace for a career low in goals. High expectations greeted him after the Bolts traded a number one pick, young prospect Alex Picard and Flip Kuba for him at the beginning of the season. Oh yeah and he took a puck to the face that cost him his rugged good looks.
Mike Smith - A concussion (the second of his career) ended his breakout season. Given a chance to be a number one goalie for the first time in his career, Smith proved management right as he was the only reason the Lightning had a chance to win on a nightly basis in the first half of the season. Shutting him down for the rest of the season wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Olaf Kolzig - If he hadn’t required season ending bicep surgery Kolzig might have been moved already. The veteran net minder might have found his way back to Washington or out to Chicago. It looks like he might retire after this season, but it was nice to see my favorite goalie suit up for my favorite team.
Not going anywhere (Future of the Team Unit)
Vincent Lecavalier - The cloud of drama seems to have passed. GM Brian Lawton has said he isn’t being moved. The Canadians had their shot to pick him up and didn‘t pull the trigger. As they fade in the playoffs I don’t see them getting any closer to making the deal happen. A recent slump ( no goals and 3 assists in the last 5 games) isn’t increasing demand for Vincent either. For now, management seems committed to building the team around him.
Steven Stamkos - Since adopting the Tocchet Routine (increased weight training and the occasional healthy scratch to watch the game from the press box) Stamkos has steadily improved on the ice. He will be in black and blue for many years to come, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved to a winger position where he could use his speed and surprisingly hard shot to a greater advantage.
Matt Smaby - He also gets my vote for IronMan of the season award. Playing with an injured right foot for most of the last month Smaby has jumped past Mike Lundin and oft-injured Andy Rodgers as the bright spot on the Lightning blue line for the future.
Not going anywhere (Thanks Big Long Contract Unit)
Ryan Malone - I’m sure the Penguins wouldn’t mind seeing him on their power play these days.
Probably not moving (Who Would Want Them Unit)
Josef Melichar - If it wasn’t for injuries he wouldn’t be on the team right now.
Lukas Kraijeck - “Farmer” Lukas (for his tendancy to pitchfork the puck down the ice instead of actually passing it to someone) is hurt as well, but my dislike for him made me put him in this category.
Ryan Craig - I love me some Craig-ers. Too bad I jinxed him two season’s ago.
David Koci - An unsung hero for the Bolts this season. This converted forward has been logging minutes on the blue line over the last few months. I don’t see a team in contention making a play for an enforcer who would probably be scratched for most of the rest of the season if it wasn’t for the injuries suffered by the Lightning this year.
Mike McKenna - McKenna is proving that he could be a solid back up in the MLB, but a team would have to be desperate to pick him up for a playoff run.
Kari Ramo - Much like McKenna Ramo wouldn’t be a starter on any team in contention right now. However, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in a package deal. At 22, he is still young enough to develop into a number one goalie and a team that doesn’t need him this year, but might need a goalie in a couple of years might be willing to pick him up. For instance the Devils may be looking at a future without Marty Brodeur pretty soon. Moving Ramo would also free up playing time for Riku Helenius in Norfolk. The Lightning have a glut of young talent in between the pipes and need to figure out what to do with them.
Could be traded (Offer Me Something and They’re Yours Unit)
Matt Pettinger - Quietly putting together a solid year Pettinger could move for a lower round draft pick to a team that is looking for a speedy fore checker who can throw the occasional puck in the net.
Marek Malik - Hey he’s got experience!
Gary Roberts - Hey, he’s a leader! He’s got experience! He’s old!
Evgeny Artyukhin - Arty was almost put into the future of the team category, but much like Pettinger a team looking for some depth might lob a deal the Lightning’s way. As a ferocious fore checker (alliteration alert!) he can definitely be a disruptive force in the offensive zone. Again, I would be surprised if he was packaged with another player.
Now we’re talkin’ (Could Help a Contender Unit)
Vaclav Prospal - Vinny is in the same position as he was last year except for having fewer goals and a reasonable cap hit ($3.5 Million or the next two years). Playing for a contender may light a spark in him, maybe a desperate Ottawa team could be enticed to part with Alex Picard?
Adam Hall - A defensive minded center man with a cap friendly contract? For a team looking for depth Hall may be worth a mid round draft pick.
Jeff Halpern - Rumors abound that Columbus is interested in Halpern. He has never gotten on track this season, but could add veteran leadership to a younger Blue Jacket team.
Steve Eminger - Eminger’s play has made Matt Carle a forgotten man. I would like to see him stay in the Black and Blue, but a team like Washington who is looking for depth on the blue line might dangle enough to talk the Bolts into moving him.
Corey Murphy - A poor man’s Steve Eminger, Murphy has played well since coming over from Florida (a move that the Lightning brass isn’t getting enough credit for) he could be useful for a team looking for a point man on a second power play unit.
Already writing their legacy (Most Likely to be Moved Unit)
Mark Recchi - The Bolts best player during the first half of the season (despite his lackluster +/- rating) Recchi personifies the veteran force that teams like to pick up this time of year. He could bring back live prospects that have a chance of cracking the Bolts lineup next year.
Martin St Louis - Man, a year ago I would be all over the “Trade Marty” bandwagon. This year, not so much. Vincent might wear the “C”, but number 26 is the true leader of this team. The hot rumors have had him going to Pittsburgh for much of the year. He would fit nicely on a line with playmaker Sidney Crosby.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if his old buddy John Tortorella might look for him to join him in New York. St Louis would be a nice fit for the up-tempo style Torts will want to instill. Of course they would have to find someway to fit his salary onto a team that has five players whose cap hit is over $5 Million next season.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Montreal’s name creeps into the discussion as the deadline approaches. With Lawton basically taking Vincent off of the table, a quickly fading Canadians organization may want to bring their other local product back. Would they look to move disgruntled forward Alexei Kovalav and a prospect like PK Subban for St Louis. The Bolts would get a top tier prospect in Subban and Kovalev is a unrestricted free agent after the season so they will get cap relief as well.
By posting this I’m sure I just sealed Vincent’s fate. My reputation for predicting things isn’t great, in fact it’s quite horrible. If nothing else it will be a fun seven days!