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Tampa Bay Lightning

McKenzie: ‘Something has got to give’ for struggling Lightning

(Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

The waiting game for NHL trades continues, and struggling teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning that entered the season with high expectations might be seen as having even more of an impetus to get a swap completed.

Yet still we wait.

“A lot of the guys I talk to say, ‘Do you know how hard it is to make a deal?’ And they’re going through a lot of that,” noted hockey Insider Bob McKenzie during a Tuesday morning radio hit on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “But you’re right. I’ve got to figure Tampa does something at some point. I just can’t imagine Steve Yzerman allows the Lightning – a team I thought would battle Montreal for the division lead, and is now on pace for about 80 or 82 points… And I know they’ve got injuries. And Stamkos is out. But historically, they’ve been able to weather those storms. Now they’re not.

“Defensively they’re not good enough. The goaltending has been a little shaky lately with Bishop out and Vasilevskiy. But we’ve seen Vasilevskiy perform well at a high level in the playoffs. So he’s capable of doing it. I think what’s going through here now is just one of those cases of he’s a good goalie and he’s going to be their goalie of the future, but he’s on a bit of a bad jag right now.

“I’m not sure what Steve Yzerman does, because there are so many financial handcuffs he’s dealing with, and financial pressures that he’s dealing with. But maybe that also plays into the fact that it gives him something to play with. That he’s not going to be able to sign all of his players in the summer. Tyler Johnson is up. Ondrej Palat is up for a deal. Jonathan Drouin is up for a deal. Now, he’s not trading Drouin. But boy oh boy, just about anybody else up front might be a possibility if they could get a defenseman in that would help them. If they get Stamkos back later in the season we’ll see, but nobody is counting on that.

“But I’ve got to think that something has got to give somewhere along the line.”

The Lightning’s search for a Top 4 defenseman has been consistently mentioned for awhile now, but that market has such little supply with an overwhelmingly popular demand. Most general managers have simply not wanted to pay the price to acquire a rearguard.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was fairly blunt on the subject of potential trades over the weekend, telling Tampa Bay Times beat writer Joe Smith: “If there was something I could have done to this point that would make our team better, I would have done it. We’ll keep trying.”

Tampa Bay enters Tuesday evening’s action in sixth place in the Atlantic, a division that sees only eight points separating second and eighth place.

The Lightning has lost its past four games though, which is already the second four-game losing streak of this season. In its prior two campaigns combined, the franchise only had one such stretch.

Elliotte Friedman also singled out Tampa Bay as a team that “really wants to do something” on the trade front. He made the comment during a Monday appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, also noting the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks as teams really looking to make a deal.

In a separate interview on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590 Friday, Friedman covered what he deemed an “expensive” trade market for defensemen.

“Probably the guy who is going to get a lot of attention, and he doesn’t get a lot right now, is Michael Stone in Arizona,” said Friedman. “He’s an unrestricted free agent after this year. Pretty decent player. I think he’s a name you’re going to hear a lot.”

Stone is on a one-year, $4 million contract this season.

“It’s interesting,” continued Friedman. “It sounds like a lot of teams are trying to get their hands on Brandon Carlo, the young defenseman from Boston, but so far they’ve resisted Jacob Trouba and Gabriel Landeskog deals for him. So that tells you that if you want a young player or a young player with term, it’s going to cost you and it’s going to cost you big.”

Despite there not having been any actual trades to discuss, the dialogue in and around the subject for Insiders has picked up of late.

Darren Dreger dropped a breadcrumb of a preview for Tuesday evening’s Insider Trading on TSN, noting that he will be discussing the Colorado Avalanche. There has been much speculation surrounding the core players of the team, mostly centering around Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene. Nathan MacKinnon has generally been seen by the Insiders as an untouchable.

Here’s a quick glance at a few recent notes you may have missed:

McKenzie on Bruins: ‘I can’t imagine they would give up Charlie McAvoy’

Dreger’s latest on NHL general manager making their trade calls

Dreger targets potential UFA destinations for Shattenkirk

Dreger: Holland’s Red Wings plan to ‘stay the course’

Dreger: Tallon ‘beating the bushes’ trying to improve Panthers

LeBrun: Trade deadline buying ‘doesn’t really make sense for Canucks’

Full archives

Source: TSN 1040, Tampa Bay Times Sportsnet 960, Sportsnet 590

For reference: Covering the Insiders

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