BP Mailbag: 3-3-14

The BP Mailbag returns after its own Olympic break (the Games aren’t going to watch themselves and multi-tasking is a challenge when hockey is on).

The questions, please…

@Jayslightning79:
@BoltProspects Would you part with Namestnikov for a Dmen like Alex Edler #BPMailbag

The Canucks’ Alex Edler, a 27-year-old defenseman, is rumored to be on the trading block. With the trade deadline on Wednesday, speculation is picking up steam.

Edler fits a lot of criteria for what I think the Lightning should be looking for: 300-plus games played, puckmover, second-pair capable, and power play contributor.

He also has good size (6-3), which Yzerman likes in a defenseman. There are a lot of things to like.

However…

I wish he was right-handed and was having a better year (15 points in 44 games after 49 in 82 two years ago; plus a minus-24 rating so far this year), but if he were, he wouldn’t be available. The Lightning desperately need a righty to play the center point and feed Stamkos one-timers without the pivot delay lefties have to make. Core players Carle and Hedman are lefties; Gudas a righty. Ideally you want another righty there.

As for Vladdy, we’ve seen center depth take a hit this year and there isn’t much behind him ready to step in unless you move Brett Connolly to center full-time. Namestnikov was Yzerman and Murray’s first true draft choice and embodies the philosophies of the Yzerman/Cooper Lightning: fast, skilled, smart, and competitive. He also projects as a fine 2-3 center as soon as maybe next season.

That’s a lot to give up, but you do have to give to get.

In my opinion, if I’m going to give up a piece like Vladdy, it’d have to be for a perfect fit coming back. The clincher for me is Edler’s contract, which has a cap hit of 5 million for four years beyond this season. I can’t see Yzerman taking that on with a hoard of young players needing contract extensions in the coming years.

Pass.

Barlow01 via BP Messageboard:
Should Tampa Bay trade Kristers Gudlevskis while he has some hot value?

This is a good question, especially when you think back to a year ago and Yzerman capitalized on Cory Conacher’s peaking value to land Ben Bishop. It’s true, Gudlevskis’ value may never be higher, and as Barlow01 mentioned around his question, Buffalo’s Ted Nolan may want him as Nolan coached Gudlevskis for Latvia.

With super-prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy coming over next year (presumably), is there a NEED for Gudlevskis? Some may think not, but I don’t believe Yzerman works that way. In response to a run on injuries to defenseman during Yzerman’s second year in charge, he spent the offseason stocking up to guard against that again. It took Yzerman three tries to get a dependable goaltender in Bishop, so I think the last thing he ever wants to do again is be in a position where he’s begging for goaltender help. I think he hangs onto Gudlevskis unless he needs an extra piece for something big that is a slam-dunk decision.

@matthewrigberg:
#BPMailbag Tavares is out, do you think the Lightning try to get Vanek? Even though Yzerman is loathe to rent?

Adding Vanek would mean you’re adding an impact offensive player to the Lightning lineup. Yzerman will get more of an impact by adding Steven Stamkos back into the lineup, however, and Stamkos is free. The cost of Vanek will be far too rich for the Lightning’s blood, and there really isn’t much room anyway. The Lightning’s biggest need is on D. Add in the rental loathing and it’s a minimal chance at best.

@jayslightning79:
Do you expect Stamkos to be moved to wing in the coming years? With guys like Namestnikov, Johnson, Filppula (better faceoffs). #BPMailbag

I really don’t, to tell you the truth. Filppula has played wing before so he can move when Vladdy is ready for full-time duty in the top-9. You might consider it if you didn’t have a playmaker on the wing to feed him, instead having a playmaking center (as is typical). Both Drouin and Kucherov are potentially elite level passers, so there really isn’t a need for Stamkos to move. Drouin’s move to center this year at camp and Halifax may play into this somehow down the line, but right now I don’t see a need for him to move. Maybe toward the end of his career.

RSchmitz via BP Messageboard:
What is the main explanation for Koekkoek’s astronomical plus/minus improvement? I’ve gathered that he’s healthy, on a good team, and more physically mature, but is there something more technical behind the numbers that Joe Shmoe reading about him in Florida should know about?

Lightning defensive prospect Slater Koekkoek entered this year coming off minus-26 and minus-29 seasons with Peterborough. The Lightning were excited by the fact Koekkoek would be working under former NHL defenseman Bob Boughner in Windsor and Koekkoek told me he couldn’t wait for the opportunity. Aside from playing on a much better team, I think Boughner and mental maturity are the main reasons for Koekkoek's turnaround. I was impressed with Koekkoek at camp. He was courteous, professional, and honest. Reports out of Ontario last year said the opposite – whether those were true or not. He’s been outstanding this year for the Spits and has even entered league MVP talk. It’s almost a running joke in Windsor to try to track Koekkoek’s ice time. Although no official TOI stats are kept, he’s up over 30 minutes a night per all reports. He’s one of the prospects I’m most excited about.

DannyBolt via BP Messageboard:
What happened to Jimmy Mullin? I recall reading that he was on the "Killorn track", but it seems that he has derailed after a promising Freshman year. Any insight?

He was progressing nicely then started to get buried his sophomore year by younger players and depth. This year he’s been in and out of the lineup, but out a lot lately. He was a healthy scratch for a while, but I don’t know if his latest streak of being out of the lineup is due to a coach’s decision or injury. I haven’t seen anything mentioned about an injury. He’s got another year to turn things around to be a candidate for a contract. It’s not looking good at the moment.

Speaking of Miami-Ohio, keep an eye on Austin Czarnik. He’s a free agent and was at the Lightning’s camp a couple years ago. He’s an undersized, smart, point producer. He may be worth at least an AHL contract if there are no NHL offers.

@Jayslightning79:
@BoltProspects do you see Tampa claiming a guy like Philip Larsen? Righty shooting & watched a games, seemed to work the PP well #BPMailbag

If they wanted him they’d probably have to give Kostka back to the Blackhawks. He’d be a depth defenseman right now, though I do like the potential there from the 24-year-old. He’d be a player to stash away until next season, then compete with Sustr and Koekkoek for NHL time. They’d have to really believe he has something worth holding on to, because he doesn’t fill an immediate need. Keep in mind Cooper’s tie to Kostka. I don’t see it happening, but I wouldn’t object to it.

Bonus:
I’ve been thinking about who could get dealt this week from the Lightning. Here are my thoughts:

I think the player most likely to move is Brett Connolly. I like Connolly as a player and as a person. He’s come a long way since he was perceived to be arrogantly chewing gum in his TSN interview after being drafted. Connolly’s entry-level contract is up at the end of the year and the former No. 6 overall pick isn’t banging down the door to the NHL. He’s still a gifted prospect with second line upside. Do the Lightning want to give him a standard raise to around a million? It’s hard to see how he fits in next year with Richard Panik and Jonathan Drouin due spots (Drouin all but a lock). Whose spot is he going to take? His value isn’t as high as it could be, but it might be time to move on and use him as part of a bigger trade, or get a decent pick. A fresh start may be the best thing for him as a player. We hope for good things.

Keith Aulie was rumored to be on the block awhile ago, but he obviously hasn’t moved anywhere but up and down the elevator as a healthy scratch. He may be a candidate to be waived and go back to Syracuse before the year is out. He still projects as a serviceable third pair defenseman who can kill penalties and play physical, but he has to get into the lineup first.

Teddy Purcell could be on the move as he’s the only really moveable player in the normal top-9 (others project in future lineups). He’s got a difficult contract to move, as the team acquiring him would have to pay him 4.5 million next year. If Pittsburgh could afford him he might be a good acquisition as he’s played himself into a playmaker’s role instead of a shooter. The Lightning have young playmaking wingers who specialize in puck possession. There isn’t a long-term future in Tampa Bay for Purcell in my opinion.

Speaking of Purcell, he was re-signed as a scorer after his 24-goal, 65-point season in 2012. He was well on his way to flirting with 30-goal seasons, right? He’s scored 31 goals since signing that contract – a span of 170 games (106 points). I just don’t think Yzerman thought that’s what he was paying for. At any rate, when Stamkos went down on November 11, Purcell was expected to pick up a large portion of the goal-scoring. Since November 11 Purcell has scored five goals (44 games). It’s amazing the Lightning are still in playoff contention.

Ryan Malone could be on the move, but if reports were true that Yzerman offered teams a draft pick to take him in the summer and all refused, it will be difficult. Perhaps the Lightning can work him into a deal, but Malone holds the cards in the form of a limited no-movement clause. He’s a buyout candidate in the summer.

Draft picks are always on the move, and looking ahead to the 2014 draft, the Lightning have picks in the first, second, third, fifth (2), sixth, and seventh rounds. The fourth/fifth swap from the BJ Crombeen trade is coming into play. The Lightning have one second round pick, which is the most-frequently traded pick at the deadline it seems.

Prospects are always part of the trade deadline. Last year Yzerman traded Kirill Gotovets to Chicago for Syracuse help (Paradis). It was fairly obvious Gotovets didn’t have much of a future. Prospects that could be on the move include Jimmy Mullin, Brendan O’Donnell, Nikita Nesterov, Dmitri Korobov, and graduate prospect Dana Tyrell.

I don’t think Martin St. Louis gets traded, but the door doesn’t seem to be shut. If he is going to the Rangers, one would think immediate defensive help would be coming back, but there isn’t much that’s available unless they want to let go of McDonagh (yes, please) or Staal. As prospect inclusions with a bigger piece, Brady Skjei or Dylan McIlrath (limited mobility) could be included, especially Skjei. Again, I really don’t think anything happens now, if ever.

Targets: Tyler Myers would be an intriguing target if it wasn’t for his $5.5 million contract. That’s the type of player who could/should be a target, however. Other considerations (may or may not be available): Cody Franson (Leafs), Jason Demers (SJ), Justin Faulk (Canes, injured), Adam Larsson (NJD), Andrew MacDonald (NYI, rental).

I really think that the trade deadline press conference includes Yzerman saying Stamkos is Tampa’s biggest acquisition. Yzerman likes his prospects too much unless he has a choice to make (Connolly).