Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Misconception Of Alex Killorn

Let’s take a look at Alex Killorn of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Part 17 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluations has arrived. Last time, I looked at rookie forward Mathieu Joseph’s season, and he was far better than I had initially thought before I started. This next player is another in which I don’t believe he had a great season, but could definitely surprise me. He’s someone who I’ve seen thrown around by fans, including myself, in trades, and some fans just don’t like him at all. This intriguing third line winger, is Alex Killorn. 

The Basics

Alex Killorn played in all 82 games last season, and recorded 18 goals and 22 assists (40 points). Averaging 14:52 time on ice, which was a career low, Killorn started just 46.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone, also a career low, being used more defensively than on offense. However, he followed that up with fantastic possession numbers, with a 54.2 Corsi-For%. He also posted a career best takeaway to giveaway ratio of 30 to 22, which is a +8 differential. That marked the first time in his career that he had more takeaways than giveaways. For PDO, which is ultimately measured and calculated luck, he posted well above the average of 100, with a 102.9, which is very lucky, and means he might not have as good of a season next year, unless his luck holds true. When Killorn was on the ice, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 46.4, another career high for Killorn, and an expected goals against of 35.7, his second lowest total since the 2014-15 season, which is a +10.7 differential. 

Advanced Analytics

Looking at his stats, he’s solid all the way around, but those stats don’t always translate into the advanced analytics that I use. CF% does not mean he is good at breaking out of the defensive zone or gaining entry into the offensive zone. But he still had some really solid numbers last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the spider graph below reflect that, even a little bit. 

Killorn (red), stands out when it comes to his shooting metrics. He shoots a lot (Shots60), and gets a lot of goals, or just general contributions off of those shots (ShotContr60), but doesn’t necessarily gain assists off his shots, whether it’s tipped or put in off a rebound (ShotAssists60). Where he really struggled, relative to the other two players on the graph, was in his effectiveness of entering the offensive zone, as he posted last in both entry metrics (PossEntry60, PossEntry%). He ranked second in the exit metric that calculates how often he breaks out in a 60 minute span (PossExit60), and tied for first in how many exits he posts relative to the total number of times he attempts an exit (PossExit%). To dive in deeper on his exit metrics, I looked into CJ Turtoro’s Exits per 60 minute visual. 

Killorn ranks 9th on the Lightning roster when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. The one problem is, Killorn has the second lowest number of total breakouts, ahead of only Brayden Point, among the top 10 players. He is effective passing the puck up and out of the zone, but doesn’t often find himself skating it out himself. If there isn’t any passing options or room to skate, he dumps or clears it out to reset in the defensive zone. He doesn’t have a very high number of fails either, nearly half the amount that Mathieu Joseph had in a near identical workload, so he does just fine breaking out and doesn’t face too many problems in doing so. However, where I am most interested is in how badly Killorn looked entering the offensive zone on the spider graph. Let’s take a closer look at his entry metrics, by using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minute visual. 

Killorn ranks 12th on the Lightning roster in entering the zone. The struggles we thought we saw on the spider graph really wasn’t much of a struggle at all. The spider graph looks at controlled entries, when a player passes or skates it into the zone. It doesn’t take into account uncontrolled entries, which is when a player dumps it in deep. When you take controlled and uncontrolled and put them together, Alex Killorn really isn’t bad at all. He just looks for the smart play, sends it in deep, and then forechecks hard. He tends to skate it in himself when he doesn’t dump it in, relative to him passing to a teammate. But the best part about Killorn’s entry metric, is the fact that he seemingly never fails. He has the second lowest fail total among the 14 players listed, behind only Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

 

In Conclusion 

Killorn may not be the best player on the Lightning. He also doesn’t have the best contract. However, he is a lot better than many people think. He was very safe with the puck last season, able to enter and exit the offensive and defensive zones without turning the puck over very often. He had good shooting stats and nearly had a 0.5 point per game total, which is solid, considering he played less than 15 minutes per game (on average). Maybe there’s just a misconception of him due to the fact he has such a bad contract, but no one really knows. Looking at everything, maybe we should hang on to Killorn for at least one more year, because his value is lower than his production, and the Lightning won’t get a fair return for him. 

 

All stats via Hockey-reference

Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Featured Image Credit: Justin Miner

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Player Evaluation Part 13: Ryan Callahan

Part 13 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluation is finally here. The last two parts were on JT Miller and Ondrej Palat, respectively.

 

Today, I will be evaluating a guy who was mainly a healthy scratch this season, but brought energy and leadership when he was on the ice. Although his time in Tampa is numbered, he was still effective in the games he played. That player is Ryan Callahan.

Embed from Getty Images

 

The Basics

Callahan, as stated earlier, was a healthy scratch for a large portion of the season. He still managed to step into the lineup for 52 games, totalling seven goals (0.13 goals per game) and 10 assists (0.19 assists per game) for 17 points (0.33 points per game).

Callahan averaged just 11:08 time on ice in the games he played, with just 40.7% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone. His high defensive deployment led to an underwhelming 47.5 Corsi-For%. Despite the poor possession numbers, he did have an outstanding takeaway to giveaway ratio of 22 to 8, which is a +14 differential.

Callahan racked up a 102.3 PDO, showing he had a lot of luck when he did draw into the lineup, and likely would not have been able to play as well at a consistent level. It would explain why he was a healthy scratch for nearly half of the season, and almost the entire second half of the year.

With Callahan on the ice, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 20.8 and an expected goals against of 19.4, which is a +1.4 differential. That’s fairly impressive due to his high defensive zone starts.

 

Advanced Analytics

First off, Callahan generally was not bad. He is smart with the puck, hence his turnovers are very low. But he was used mainly as a defensive forward. He was never expected to push the offense, or do anything more than keeping the opposition away from their goalie. His transition game likely won’t reflect positively on visuals, and neither will his shooting. But to confirm this, let’s look at the spider graphs.

Surprisingly, Callahan (yellow) has more shots per 60 minutes (Shots60) then the last two players I evaluated, but that could be due to his low average time on ice, so that metric could be very inflated.

However, he barely contributes off his shots in every way (ShotContr60, ShotAssists60). He is not good at entering the offensive zone (PossEntry60, PossEntry%), which is unsurprising, and he doesn’t “wow” at all when exiting the defensive zone (PossExits60, PossExit%). But his defensive zone exits should be better. Due to playing less than 60 games, this data might not be the most accurate, so let’s look at CJ Turtoro’s Exit per 60 minute visual on Callahan.

Callahan ranks 12th on the Lightning roster when it comes to exiting the zone. The first thing I noticed was the fact that he had a small workload, often not the one relied on to break out. That could be the main catalyst behind the weak results on the spider graph. He just as often dumps or clears the puck out as he does pass it or skate it out, which in some ways is good, and in others, not so much. Considering his role on the team, it’s perfectly understandable why that’s the case.

He doesn’t ice the puck often, if at all when trying to break out, which is a major positive, considering he is used primarily as a defensive forward. He also does not fail getting the puck out very often, which is very indicative of his low giveaway total this season. All-in-all, he was solid for the Lightning when exiting the zone. Where he glaringly struggled was entering the offensive zone, so lets look at CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minute visual.

The spider graph looks at POSSESSION ENTRIES, which is when a player either skates it into the offensive zone himself, or passes it to a teammate. Ultimately, an entry with the puck on a player’s stick. You don’t have possession of the puck when you dump it in. Ranking 11th on the team in this metric, Callahan literally only dumps the puck in. His role is to basically keep it safe with the puck on your stick, and he wasn’t about to cost himself any more games by forcing any passes or entries. With his method of strictly dump-ins, he never really found himself failing to get it in. Again, with his role in mind, he did his job and he did it well.

 

In Conclusion

Ryan Callahan still has good hockey in him. But he gets a lot of hate due to his high cap hit of $5.8M. Everyone is calling for a buyout, but I disagree. His contract expires at the end of next season. The Lightning are certainly in a cap crunch, and could possibly need depth pieces to fill out the bottom-six. A buyout extends the period of time you have to spend money on, albeit at a much cheaper cost, but there’s no point with just one year left.

Callahan was very good with the puck in transition for the role he played, and maybe if he’s paired with upcoming rookie Alex Barre-Boulet in the bottom-six, he can help guide him into a future top-six  forward, showing him the ropes of a responsible way to play. If you still don’t think it’s worth it, trade him, and retain some salary. Why? Because with salary retainment, he is far more attractive to other teams, and the retainment only lasts one season. It’s like buying him out, but only paying the buyout cost for one season.

 

All stats via Hockey-reference

Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Is There A Blockbuster Trade Ahead?

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.

 

To Tampa: Alex Biega, Olli Juolevi, Jake Virtanen, and a 2020 2nd round pick

To Vancouver: Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan Callahan, and Tyler Johnson

 

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.”

In-Depth Analysis

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.

In Conclusion

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

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Player Evaluation Part 2: Steven Stamkos

As We Continue To Evaluate Players On The Tampa Bay Lightning, We’ll Take A Deeper Look Into Superstar Winger Steven Stamkos

 

As touched on in my Nikita Kucherov season evaluation, Tampa Bay had a historic season, breaking a ton of records on their way to 62 wins in the regular season. That being said, there had to be more than just Kucherov who stood out. Who else was an x-factor? How about their captain, Steven Stamkos.

 

The Basics

Like Kucherov, Stamkos played all 82 games this season, where he recorded 45 goals (0.55 goals per game), and 53 assists (0.65 assists per game), which totals 98 points (1.2 points per  game). That was a career-high in points for Stamkos, which is crazy because he has had some stellar seasons in the past.

He ranked fourth in the league in goals, tied for 22nd in assists and ninth in points this season. He had a 51.7 Corsi-For% (CF%) and a 51.4 Fenwick-For% (FF%). He averaged 18:18 Time on Ice (TOI), starting 54.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone. He had a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 28 to 60, which is not exactly great, but he did drive the offense well. Touched on in my last article, PDO is a measure of luck, and a 1.000 and up is good luck while under that number is bad luck. Stamkos registered a 1.009, meaning he was a little bit lucky, but not like Kucherov.

 

Advanced Analytics

On the surface, it seems as though Stamkos (who had a bad takeaway to giveaway ratio), may not have had a great season outside of the offensive zone. But do the advanced analytics back that up? Let’s look at my own created visuals to see his advanced stats compared to that of Kucherov.

Stamkos was spectacular when it came to his shooting categories, as pictured above, although shooting less and not generating as much offense off his shooting like Kucherov despite scoring more goals. But what really sticks out is his transition game. He struggles exiting the zone, and isn’t quite there compared to Kucherov entering the offensive zone either. With that being said, we should dive a little bit deeper into his exiting statistics, using CJ Turtoro’s Exits per 60 minutes visual.

The ranking is a bit wacky here, but Stamkos is the 15th best player on the Lightning in terms of breaking out of the defensive zone, which is not particularly good. Ryan Callahan, despite playing fewer games due to being the healthy scratch throughout the regular season, is ranked higher.

Stamkos very rarely is the one taking the puck out, but he fails just as often as he passes it out and skates it out, which is not good. It’s concerning to see this, because maybe if he was a bit better he could’ve produced more offensively, similar to Kucherov.

Kucherov had 30 points more than Stamkos, and it’s evident that his breakout transition is far better as he ranked first on the team. So if Stamkos was better at getting the puck out and up ice, maybe he could’ve hit the 100-point mark this season.

Now, let’s look at CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minutes visual on Stamkos.

Stamkos ranks 5th on the Lightning roster when it comes to entering the offensive zone. He just as often passes to a teammate to enter the zone, as he does carry it in himself and dump it in deep. He doesn’t fail entering the zone very often, but just like breaking out of the defensive zone, he usually isn’t the one breaking into the offensive zone.

It appears to me that Stamkos doesn’t do so much in the transitional aspect of hockey, which is again concerning. He seemingly sits back and allows his teammates to do the dirty work while he does what he does best; score or set up teammates with outstanding passes.

He is an offensive guru, which is why he has earned the reputation of one of the better players in the National Hockey League today. But he is not good in transition, and he needs to apply himself a little more. If Kucherov’s advanced analytics tells me anything, it’s that the better your transition is, the better chances your bound to have to put up more points.

 

In Conclusion

Stamkos is a leader, and very hard to stop with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. He’s hard to stop with the puck on his stick in general. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to possess the puck very often when he isn’t on the attacking end and scoring goals.

This is something that can be improved upon, however, and once he betters his transition game, the sky’s the limit for what he produces offensively. I am super excited to see what he has in store for next season! Next player evaluation will be on Brayden Point. 

 

All Stats via hockey-reference

The Spider Charts used Data from CJ Turtoro, created by Kyle Pereira

Exit/Entry Visuals from CJ Turtoro

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Potential Line-Up Additions

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a long and, quite simply, brutal off-season ahead of them. Who will be gone, and who will be brought in?

 

Emotionally, Tampa Bay Lightning fans have gone into phases of disappointment, finger-pointing and finally, disbelief after a 62-win regular season and zero post-season victories. Then add to that on the surface of the whole off-season, the expected cap crunch. It’s obviously a very stressful time of the year for the Lightning faithful. 

 

What’s The Plan?

I have already written a piece on each phase of the offseason. I started by covering potential draft options for the Lightning, the re-sign phase, and trades/signings during the free agent period. I also did a piece on Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.

But for this article, I decided to change it up. I went to several different people and asked them what players would make sense for the Lightning to trade for or sign during the free agent period. Keep in mind, I’m not mocking any trades, looking at salary caps, or saying these things should happen. These are simple suggestions that could be very intriguing coming from not just me, but several hockey fans, as well as a few other writers on the Puck77 site.

 

Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes

The Lightning may be looking for a change of leadership after the embarrassment of a first-round exit. This does NOT mean that the person who suggested this wants Lightning forward Steven Stamkos out by any means, but Williams is a veteran leader and a captain of a team who has more postseason wins in the second round then the Lightning had this entire postseason.

Although he is 37-years-old, Williams is coming off a 53-point season with a young Carolina Hurricanes team, and he currently sits at five points in 10 post-season games. A clutch playoff performer and incredible locker room leader, Williams would be a great addition, although extremely unlikely.

 

Ryan Reaves, Vegas Golden Knights

The biggest element to playoff hockey is its intensity. It’s easy to say physicality in the playoffs may be one of the most compelling elements to success, as the Lightning were dominated in the physical aspect of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. When a guy like “Muffin Man” Ryan Reaves is on the ice, I don’t think many people can out-hit you.

Embed from Getty Images

Although not much of a producer (he’s never had a season with over 20 points), Reaves adds something to a teams game that is often overlooked. He is praised as a great teammate and locker room presence, and is a cheap addition to the bottom-six.  Something that could definitely happen, especially if Adam Erne does not re-sign with Tampa this off-season.

 

Brian Boyle, Nashville Predators

I’m not kidding you when I say Brian Boyle was the most suggested add for the Lightning when I asked around. It makes sense too, as Boyle may not be too expensive and has offensive upside, especially if paired with guys like J.T. Miller and Mathieu Joseph. 

A member of the Lightning previously (2014-17), he knows Cooper’s system and he has played with some of the guys on the team in the past, like Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson. With his prior stint on the Lightning, his offensive upside and his physical presence, this is a move that is certainly realistic and something the Lightning should pursue.

 

Connor Brown, Toronto Maple Leafs

This is another suggestion that intrigues me. Connor Brown is young (25) and often underused by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not to mention, the salary situation that the Leafs are in could make Brown expendable.

He has decent offensive upside for a bottom-nine role (three consecutive seasons with 27+ points, including a 20-goal, 36-point campaign in 2016-17). He’s also a physical presence on the ice, and has far more takeaways (120) than giveaways (68) in his career. He would be another great fit for the Lightning, and realistic based on Toronto’s situation. Again, highly unlikely, but still something to keep an eye on.

 

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

The first defenseman that was suggested, Jacob Trouba is a solid blueliner, and has been for a few years with the Winnipeg Jets. He is slated to be a free agent after recording 50 points this past season. As a defenseman that’s super impressive.

Add him to the list of Lightning defenders Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and Ryan McDonagh as high-end offensive blueliners for the Lightning, and you have one incredible d-core. Add in Erik Cernak as a solid transitional and defensively responsible blueliner, and one of Braydon Coburn, Jan Rutta and Dan Girardi as a stay-at-home type, and you have yourself arguably the deepest and most talented defense in the entire NHL.

Embed from Getty Images

This is just a pipe dream however, as the cap situation may be too much to work around, and Trouba could be looking for top-two money and minutes if he leaves the Jets. Something he most likely won’t get with Tampa.

 

Jordie Benn, Montreal Canadians

Jordie Benn has been a solid bottom-pair defenseman basically his entire career, and would be a great fit in the Lightning organization. If Tampa lets Coburn and Girardi walk away this offseason, Benn would be a nice addition.

He blocks a ton of shots (128 this season), and plays a physical brand of hockey. He does give the puck up often, which was the downfall for Tampa this season, but again, his physicality and blocking is important and deserves a look.

 

Patrick Nemeth, Dallas Stars

Not as offensive as Benn (10 points to Benn’s 20 this season), Patrik Nemeth does block more shots (131 blocks) and has more hits. He also turns the puck over less, although Benn does have more takeaways. What this tells me is Nemeth is purely a stay-at-home, shot blocking, physically inclined defenseman, who tries to play it safe with the puck rather than drive the offense. If he’s paired with either Hedman or Sergachev, he could be a solid addition. Again, however, it’s not very likely, but something to look for.

 

Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson was considered the best of the best on the blue line in the National Hockey League and is still considered a premier defenseman. However, an injury ravaged season, as well as a new system and new players to learn to play with and gain chemistry with, caused the elite Swedish blueliner to take a step back.

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This opens the eyes of several NHL franchises as he could take a cheaper deal than what he would have had he been available last off-season. This is still a longshot for the Lightning to reel in, as they have their own agenda and free agents (Brayden Point) to deal with, making this a very difficult signing. 

 

Matt Duchene, Columbus Blue Jackets

Matt Duchene has been tearing it apart the playoffs. He ripped up the Lightning in round one, and continued his strong play into round two against the Boston Bruins. He is also a leader on and off the ice, and if he does come to Tampa Bay, he could take them to that next step in the playoffs, as he appears to be clutch in the big moments.

Again, a long shot, but it would be an incredible acquisition if they traded a few players on semi-hefty deals (Killorn, Johnson, Palat) and bought out one big contract (Ryan Callahan) to free up space for both Duchene and upcoming restricted free agent Point. I don’t expect it to happen at all, but what a piece to bring in.

 

Ryan Dzingal, Columbus Blue Jackets

Now this is something that could happen.

Dzingel has taken steps to become a picture-perfect middle-six forward, and he may not cost much more than $4.5M on a contract. If they move Palat, Johnson or Killorn and buyout Callahan, they could re-sign Point and bring in Dzingel. He could play a role similar to that of Miller, fluctuating between the first, second, and third lines, and be able to produce in all of those spots. Could strengthen an already solid power play unit.

 

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs

This is realistic in a sense that he will likely be available. He is also a leader on and off the ice, and defense is a growing need in Tampa with the likes of Anton Stralman, Girardi and Coburn likely out-of-town come the summer.

But the Lightning already have a punishing top-four defense, with Hedman, McDonagh, Sergachev and Cernak there. Adding Gardiner isn’t necessary, but it would add incredible depth for the Bolts on the backend. It is highly unlikely, however.

 

Warren Foegele, Carolina Hurricanes

This was an interesting suggestion. The recently turned 23-year-old Foegele is coming of his first season of NHL play. In 77 games, he only racked up 15 points (10 goals, five assists), but his possession statistics is where he really showed his value.

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He had a 53.8 Corsi For %, which is outstanding, and a positive takeaway to giveaway ratio of 37-31. But he has been incredible in the playoffs, with 8 points in 10 games and helping pave the way for the Hurricanes success. He’s also racked up 21 hits in the postseason, showing he can play physical if need be.

He’s a bottom-six forward, with middle-to-top-six potential. Because of his potential and his current status as a bottom-six guy, he may not be too expensive either. With big contracts on the horizon, the Hurricanes wouldn’t be dumb enough to take a contract like Killorn’s one for one, so it’d have to be more appealing in some way. Maybe salary retainment or additional picks can do the trick, but who knows if the Hurricanes would send him packing, especially with how well he’s done in the postseason. So that makes a move to Tampa very unlikely for Foegele. But this is something I would love to happen, given his early career postseason success.

 

All stats via hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals