How the Lightning and Avalanche have approached the trade deadline in recent years and what the Oilers can learn
Photo credit:© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis24 days ago
We’re just one week out from the trade deadline for the 2022-23 season.
The Edmonton Oilers hit a bit of a lull after the All-Star break but are still within striking distance of the top spot in the Pacific Division.
The expectation in Oil Country is that general manager Ken Holland will make upgrades ahead of Friday’s deadline to help the Oilers win their division and go on a deep playoff run come spring. But at this point, it’s anybody’s guess what those upgrades might be.
Earlier this month, I took a deep dive into Holland’s history at the trade deadline for clues about what to expect from him this year. Today, I’m going to look back at what the NHL’s two most recent Stanley Cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, did at the deadline ahead of their championship runs and what the Oilers can learn from them…
The 2019-20 Lightning
The Lightning put together one of the better seasons in NHL history in 2018-19 but wound up getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets so there was significant pressure on the team to go on a deep playoff run the following year.
General manager Julien BriseBois made two different trades involving first-round picks in February of 2020 to help push the Lightning over the top.
The first came a little over a week before the deadline, as the Lightning dealt prospect Nolan Foote and the first-round pick they had received from the Vancouver Canucks in the off-season in exchange for J.T. Miller to the New Jersey Devils for Blake Coleman. On deadline day, the Lightning sent their own first-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Barclay Goodrow and a third-round pick.
Both Coleman and Goodrow both featured small cap hits at $1.8 million and $925k respectively and were signed for the following season. This move was about increasing Tampa’s forward depth while also adding two strong penalty killers, which was important for the team after they allowed five power-play goals in the previous year’s sweep by Columbus.
The Lightning wound up beating the Dallas Stars in six games in the Stanley Cup Final that summer. Coleman scored 13 points in 25 games and Goodrow was their most-used penalty-killing forward behind only Anthony Cirelli.
The 2021 Lightning
Since Coleman and Goodrow were muti-year additions, the Lightning didn’t have to do much at the trade deadline during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season.
Their only notable move was acquiring shutdown defender David Savard from the Blue Jackets, a player they were familiar with because they’d gone up against Columbus in back-to-back years in the playoffs. Tampa sent a first- and a third-round pick to the Blue Jackets for Savard along with a fourth-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings to retain 50 percent of his salary cap hit.
Savard wasn’t a game-changer for the Lightning but he added veteran depth to their blueline, playing mostly as the shutdown guy alongside the 22-year-old Mikhail Sergachev. Savard logged an average of 14:07 per game and broke even in terms of on-ice goal differential at even strength.
Tampa’s biggest addition for the playoffs that year wasn’t Savard, it was Nikita Kucherov returning from injury. Kucherov underwent hip surgery and missed the entirety of the 2021 season but returned for Game 1 of their first-round series with the Florida Panthers. He went on to score 32 points over 23 playoff games as the Lightning won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
The 2021-22 Lightning
Savard, Coleman, and Goodrow all left the Lightning in the off-season following their second Stanley Cup so BriseBois had to do some work ahead of the trade deadline in 2021-22.
A few days before the deadline, the Lightning sent middling prospects Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk along with two first-round picks to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Brandon Hagel and two fourth-round picks. A couple of days later, Tampa traded Mathieu Joseph and a fourth-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Nicholas Paul.
Much like Coleman, Hagel was a target for the Lightning because of his cheap contract, which still has one more season left with a $1.5 million cap hit. He’s currently in the midst of his productive season in the NHL with 22 goals and 47 points through 56 games on Tampa’s top line.
Paul was essentially the replacement as the team’s third-line centre for Yanni Gourde, who the Lightning lost to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft the previous summer. He scored five goals, two of which were game-winners, and nine points during Tampa’s playoff run and re-signed in the off-season to a seven-year, $22 million deal.
The Lightning reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third year in a row in 2022 but wound up getting dethroned as champions when the Avalanche beat them in six games.
The 2021-22 Avalanche
Colorado won the Presidents’ Trophy during the shortened 2021 season but got edged out in the second round of the playoffs by the Vegas Golden Knights. After that, general manager Joe Sakic decided to go for it.
One week before the trade deadline, the Avs traded prospect Drew Hellson and a second-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for defender Josh Manson. The next day, Colorado dealt Tyson Jost to the Minnesota Wild for Nico Sturm in a deal that saved them $1.275 million in salary cap room.
On deadline day, Colorado made two moves. They traded prospect Justin Barron and a second-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for two-way winger Artturi Lehkonen and they sent a fifth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for veteran forward Andrew Cogliano.
These additions helped make a very good team even deeper. Lehkonen scored eight goals and 14 points in the playoffs, Manson logged 17:11 per game on average and was critical in compensating for the injury to Samuel Girard, and Cogliano chipped in three goals while serving as one of the team’s most-used penalty killers.
Fittingly, Colorado’s Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 6 was scored by Lehkonen and assisted by Manson…
Keeping the band together was a priority for Sakic in the off-season. Lehkonen inked a five-year, $22.5 million deal, Manson signed a four-year, $18 million contract, and Cogliano was brought back with a one-year, $1.25 million pact.
What does it all mean?
Every team is different so there isn’t one specific way to approach the trade deadline but there are a few things that stand out when looking back at what the Lightning and Avalanche have done in recent seasons.
Both teams prioritized making their rosters deeper by acquiring multiple players who could play specific roles rather than making a huge swing for a big name. They also focused on additions that could help their teams beyond that year’s playoff run. All of the players acquired by Tampa and Colorado over these last three seasons other than Nico Sturm and David Savard were either under contract beyond the season or were re-signed in the off-season.
The concept of adding a rental for one playoff push is something that efficient and successful teams are now avoiding, especially when doing so involves moving a top draft pick.
Now, from an Edmonton perspective, it’s important to note that the Oilers aren’t necessarily in the same spot as the Lightning or Avs were. Those teams featured elite puck-moving defencemen like Cale Makar, Victor Hedman, and Mikhair Sergachhev, so they could focus their efforts on patching holes elsewhere on their team.
But despite the needs and situations being different, the Oilers can still take a lesson from Tampa and Colorado. They’re better off ponying up more resources in order to add cost-controlled players than they are looking for rentals to push them over the top. The price to acquire Jakob Chychrun and Sam Lafferty would be higher than Vladislav Gavrikov and Nick Bonino but the latter two can become part of the core that helps the team win in the present and the future.
Trade deadline acquisitions aren’t just about the next few months anymore. Teams in the salary cap world always need to be thinking long-term.
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