Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Brian Lawton wants to buy at trade deadline
Remember last season’s trade deadline? The Lightning, foundering in the standings and trying desperately to reduce payroll enough to gain full league revenue sharing, was in sell mode, dumping wing Mark Recchi, goaltender Olie Kolzig and defensemen Steve Eminger and Jamie Heward.
A year later and heading toward Wednesday’s deadline, Tampa Bay is one point out of a playoff spot with 21 games left and poised to buy. At least that is how general manager Brian Lawton made it sound.
“We’re right in the spot we want to be,” he said of competing for the playoffs. “We’re thankful for that, but we’re getting a little greedy. We want more.”
And Lawton has said incoming owner Jeff Vinik does not object to increasing payroll if the deal is right.
What does the Lightning need? A wing to take the scoring pressure off the line of Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Steve Downie, a defenseman to move the puck and a third- or fourth-line grinder.
Who is out there?
Toronto’s Alexei Ponikarovsky and Columbus’ Raffi Torres, both left wings and with 19 goals, could be reasonable options. Colorado’s Marek Svatos and Ottawa’s Shean Donovan, both wings, could be had relatively cheaply.
An interesting idea could be Colorado defenseman Ruslan Salei, who is coming off a seasonlong back injury but played for Belarus in the Olympics, or Oilers defenseman Steve Staios.
For sentimental types, Columbus and former Lightning left wing Fredrik Modin is available, though his injury history and fall-off in production is cautionary.
For dreamers, Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg, who is young, 23, has upside but is expensive with two years left on a $9 million deal.
All of the above but Versteeg are unrestricted free agents after the season so likely would be rentals, though. Lawton did not rule out bringing in a longer-term contract.
What can Tampa Bay offer without gutting the big club? With little organizational depth and unwilling to part with draft choices it needs to restock its minor-league system, there are few options — except in net.
Most likely available are Vasily Koshechkin, a 2002 draft choice who is tearing up the Russian KHL and finally wants to come to North America; Kari Ramo, who also is playing in Russia; and disappointing prospect Riku Helenius.