News broke this weekend of the rift between Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning. First, Drouin was sent to their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. It was released the following day that Drouin, by way of his agent, Allan Walsh, had requested a trade going as far back as November.
The news was first broke, then confirmed, by several highly reputable media resources, like Bob MacKenzie and Elliotte Friedman. On Sunday I broached upon the possibility of a Drouin to Vancouver trade and why all bets are off when it comes to acquiring a player of his caliber.
Today I’ll delve into five essential reasons as to why they might be better suited than most to land the budding young star.
While both the Canucks and Lightning haven’t any room to breath against the salary cap this season, Tampa’s problems extend much further. The Lightning are set to enter next off-season with an estimated $24-million in cap space. It seems like a relatively high amount, until you consider they will have to either re-sign or replace Steven Stamkos along with six other key members of their franchise. This doesn’t even account for Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, who are all due for new contracts ahead of 2017-18.
The Canucks currently have a total of nine players under contract for that last season. This is to say that their long-term cap flexibility makes them an attractive draw for a team like the Lightning, who likely have a contract or two of their own that they’d like off the books. Matt Carle, for example, is signed for another three seasons, at a cap-hit of $5.5-million. Don’t think they’d take up a mulligan on that?
2. Short Term Fill-Ins
While the Canucks long-term salary situation is the envy of a handcuffed squad like the Lightning, the immediate future presents any number of challenges. Depending on your resource, Vancouver is already pressed against the limits of the cap. This means that for every long-term dollar that the Canucks save the Lightning, they’ll have to return a similarly priced asset their way in the interim.
If that means saving the Lightning from Ryan Callahan’s contract, then they’ve Radim Vrbata at their disposal to match at a nearly dollar-for-dollar pace. If the aforementioned Carle is dangled, perhaps a player like Dan Hamhuis is of interest to the Lightning.
If the Lightning are to deal any one of their blue chip prospects, it’s likely to bolster their short-term aspirations of winning the Stanley Cup. They can’t just ditch NHL talent because their contracts will be wholly unpalatable in a few years. They have to legitimately be able to contribute to this franchise in spring.
3. Prospect Depth
The Bolts have been a relatively forward thinking franchise under Steve Yzerman and this extends to their long-term plans. Somehow they’ve one of the better prospect pools in the entirety of the league, while all the while remaining a competitive, if not contending team.
For example, their prospect pool boasts Anthony DeAngelo, Slater Koekkoek, Adam Erne and Brayden Point. That shouldn’t even be possible for a team of this quality, but here we are. This is to say that they will likely look to continue hoarding young talent.
This is an appetite the Canuck can satisfy. Between Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, surely there’s a top flight prospect of interest to the Lightning. This is an avenue Jim Benning will be reticent to travel, as evidenced by his reluctance to deal any of these pieces in the Evander Kane sweepstakes last season.
4. Ancillary Pieces
The Canucks lineup is almost entirely made up of the kind of “glue guys” one adds on their way to an extended playoff run. Between Brandon Prust, Jannik Hansen and Christopher Higgins, to name a few, the Canucks have a bevy of bottom-six options that can bolster the already strong Tampa Bay lineup.
There’s also plenty of defenders on expiring contracts which might be of interest to the Lightning. Matt Bartkowski has to top the list, as he’s on an expiring contract with a low price-tag. These aren’t by any means the pieces that make the deal, but in some instances, they can be the ones that put it over the top.
Canucks fans should know as well as anyone that the geopolitics play a role in roster decisions. Vancouver may not have felt as though Eddie Lack was capable of turning into a starting goaltender, but they sure as hell weren’t ready to see that happen in division. The Oilers offered the Canucks considerably more than the Devils for Cory Schneider, but were refused based on their close proximity.
I can’t imagine that the prospect of dealing a 20 year old prospect in Conference is an overly appealing option for the Lightning. One would have to imagine that division is almost entirely off the table. That puts the Canucks on the right side of this set of circumstances, as they are just about as far away from Tampa as an NHL franchise possibly can be.
At least until Whitehorse gets an expansion team.