Could the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks pull off a blockbuster trade?
Fellow Puck77 contributor Niels Nielsen (great name by the way) put out an article regarding moves that the Canucks can make to speed up their rebuild out in Vancouver. One of the trades included in his article was a deal involving the Tampa Bay Lightning, so I decided to break it down.
What Was The Deal?
Here’s who went where in that mock trade.
From Vancouver’s perspective, they get an immediate top 4 defenseman with high upside in Sergachev, whose contract expires next season, a top 6 forward who can play either wings or in the middle in Johnson, and a veteran 4th liner and expert penalty killer, who’s overpaid, but expiring soon, in Callahan. In Tampa’s perspective, they add a cheap depth defenseman who I’ve been high on recently in Biega, a once highly touted prospect who still has plenty of upside and could step into a bottom 2 role immediately in Juolevi, a bottom 6 winger with potential to play in the top 6 if used right in Virtanen and a future early second round pick in a very talented draft next season. But we need to dive deeper into why these pieces would realistically make sense to be moved.
Why Move Sergachev, Johnson and Callahan?
I don’t want Sergachev to go anywhere, he has so much upside and so much talent right now, that I would rather keep him around. But, he expires next season, along with Anthony Cirelli, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Erik Cernak, just to name the more vital players. Sergachev played bottom pair minutes through most of last season, and on some occasions played on the first pair with Hedman. But he was ultimately jumped on the line-up by Cernak, a guy who was originally supposed to be a temporary helper for injuries. Sergachev’s defensive zone play is a concern and his consistency is not there yet. He could still cost a decent chunk, especially if he fixes his play on defense, which Tampa may not be able to afford. So, get something for him now if the Lightning doubt they can get him next off-season. Logically, that’s not an unrealistic idea, and with Julien BriseBois at the helm, and not the guy who traded for Sergachev (Steve Yzerman), there’s a chance it really could happen. As for Johnson, he is overpaid for a middle 6 role in Tampa, but if moved to Vancouver, can fulfill his payroll of $5M per season. Shedding that much cap alone would be a great move, in my eyes, and it makes sense, as Johnson’s name has been thrown around in trade suggestions due to his high cap hit. As for Callahan, he is egregiously overpaid, and sat in the pressbox for a large chunk of the Lightning season, barely cracking the roster due to injuries. If the Lightning can avoid a buyout and trade his rights, that alone would be a huge win for BriseBois. If he can package Johnson and Callahan in a trade, that’s an even bigger win. But like with everything, there’s always loss before gain. That loss is Sergachev. However, with all three contracts together, the Lightning are losing $11.694M, roughly. That puts their total cap space from $8.577M to $20.271M
Why Biega, Juolevi, Virtanen and the second rounder in 2020?
I will start with the 2020 second rounder. Next year’s draft features an abundance of prospects to choose from, and when I asked Frans, among others, which class was stronger between this years and next, a majority of them said that yes, next season will be far deeper. While not many people know exactly who ranks where yet, many expected it to be better than this year, and this year is pretty packed with talent. When I asked Will Scouch, who’s forte is looking at future prospects, he said, “It is almost a certainty.” So the second rounder is a nice touch. As for Alex Biega, I really like the guy on the Lightning as a bottom pair guy with Jan Rutta or Braydon Coburn in a sort of rotation type gig. I wrote a piece on Biega not too long ago, so check that out here if you want an in-depth look on him. Virtanen has played 210 career NHL games, with 32 goals and 27 assists (59 points), while averaging 12:44 time on ice. He has a career Corsi-For% of 49.0%, which isn’t great, but Vancouver hasn’t exactly been a great team either. He has yet to play a full 82 game season, either, but that’s the last negative for now. He’s coming off a career high in points (25), and goals (15), as well as a career high for time on ice (14:49). He also has a career takeaway to giveaway ratio of 123 to 69, which is a +54 differential, which is incredible. He plays physical, as he recorded 154 hits last season, and blocked a career high amount of shots (37). He would fit in nicely with the third or fourth line, as well as killing penalties, with more efficiency and a cheaper cost ($1.25M for one more season) than Ryan Callahan. He is also younger, with upside. Olli Juolevi was at one point one of the most hyped up defensive prospects in the NHL. But he has been ravaged by injuries, only playing 18 AHL games last season. However, he did impress, posting 1 goal and 12 assists (13 points) in that span. Yet again, I bugged Will Scouch for his own report on Juolevi, and he had this to say: “I’ve always been a fan through everything, and his offensive game was well on it’s way in the AHL. He’s probably going to need a full AHL season to get back up to speed unless he really explodes at camp.”
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an advanced analytic which is making a push towards relevancy, as it calculates a players contributions per minute compared with their overall contribution. With that being said, WAR is gaining traction, and is very important to look at. First, here’s Alex Biega among Lightning and Canuck defenseman on Sean Tierney’s WAR per minute visual.
This is the same picture shown in my Biega breakdown article, and I will show it again here. Biega ranks 6th in this metric, showing his importance through and through. But question is, how will Virtanen fair among forwards on the ‘Nucks and Bolts?
Virtanen ranks second to last in this metric, ultimately showing that he is a complete liability. I can’t be that harsh, but this shows exactly why he plays very low minutes on a not-so-good team. I’d imagine every Lightning fan, reporter, and general reader will want to keep Tyler Johnson and Ryan Callahan over him. So Virtanen may not be the best piece of this trade, but he is still a piece, and might fill that Callahan role but at a much cheaper cost. Finally, Juolevi. Because he didn’t play at the NHL, he does not have any data on these more advanced visuals, but there is one, and it’s a metric that calculates an AHL players chances of making it to the big leagues next season, via Sean Tierney.
As shown above, Juolevi has a good chance of being in the NHL next season, in a depth role, but most likely would not be against staying down in the AHL for a season, which is what will likely happen thanks to the Lightning’s ridiculous defensive depth. With Juolevi down in the minors, only Biega and Virtanen will count against the cap, and they combine for a $2.075M cap hit.
Salary Cap Space For Tampa After This Move
After this move, Tampa would have $18.196M freed up. Now let’s say that they re-sign Brayden Point for $8M per season, their cap hit is bumped down to $10.196M. Then they re-sign Paquette for $1M per season, and now their space is down to $9.196M. Their defense consists of Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Alex Biega and Jan Rutta. Erik Karlsson has been talked about taking a paycut to go to Tampa, and that being said, could take a $9M per season deal, with the first two years with a low cap hit of $8M and the remainder with over $9M per. What this does is it alleviates pressure from re-signing Vasilevskiy, Cirelli, and Cernak next off-season. Then, after a couple years and the Lightning solve next off-seasons obstacles, Karlsson’s heavy backend of a contract sets in and they have a star-studded core locked in for a few seasons. Meanwhile, the Canucks speed up their rebuild with veterans and a fantastic top 4, young defenseman.
As Niels touched on with his mock trades, this deal may not be the most realistic, but the individual pieces being moved are, logistically, realistic. The idea of bringing in Erik Karlsson is tantalizing, and this deal gives them an ideal opportunity to do just that. Here’s a look at what the line up would look like if those moves were made.
Quite the unit there, and remember, only Karlsson’s first 2 seasons will be at $8M per year, while his last 2/3 will be $10M per (for a 4 year deal), or $9.666M per(for a 5 year deal).
All salary and line combinations via capfriendly.com
All stats via hockey reference
WAR graphs and NHL potential via Sean Tierney on Public.Tableau
Featured Image Credit: Justin Miner