Acquisition Targets: Defensemen

It’s no secret the Lightning are in need of another top-4 defenseman if they are to make a run at the conference title next season. With the expected departure of Sami Salo this summer, and the overuse of Radko Gudas last year, there’s a hole next to Victor Hedman on the top pair that has to be filled. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a hoard of tradable assets in his back pocket ready to make a deal (2 first round picks this year and next, young forwards with scoring upside, Gudlevskis/Wilcox) in June.

The following list is as informal as it gets. These are players who are either rumored to be on the block, may be on the block (not “core*” players), or could be available for the right price based on their individual situations or existing depth on their respective clubs.

The list is limited to right-handed defensemen, preferably with the ability to move the puck and run a power play (unless otherwise noted). Lightning coach Jon Cooper used Mike Kostka more than he probably should have last year as he was one of the few (only?) players he had able to move the puck on the right side. Cooper has shown in his career with the Lightning organization that gives his defensemen a bright green light, and the more forward-like they are while maintaining defensive responsibilities, the better.

The following categories are broken down into those capable of top-4 minutes now, those who could work their way into that role quickly, and those who could be acquired in addition to a top-4 if Yzerman wants to get a righty puckmover on the cusp of top-6 defensemen minutes – something that is severely lacking in the system.

* core = 1-2 defensemen per team the club can’t survive without (TB has one, Hedman)

In no particular order...

Top-4:

Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (No. 3 of Big-3 in STL)
Cody Franson, TOR (TB was rumored to be interested last summer)
Slava Voynov, LA
Jared Spurgeon, MIN (Suter, Brodin ahead of him, Dumba and Folin behind him)
Mike Green, WSH (6M cap hit through 14-15, modified NTC)
Anton Stralman, NYR (complimentary role to Hedman)
Zbynek Michalek, PHO (complimentary role to Hedman)

On the rise:

Sami Vatanen, ANA
Ryan Ellis, NSH
Mark Psysk or Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF
Matt Dumba, MIN (if Spurgeon kept; MIN just signed Folin)
David Savard, CLB (former teammate of Barberio)
Adam Larsson, NJ (stalled)
Cody Ceci, OTT (Ottawa stacked with RHD)
Jason Demers or Justin Braun, SJ (Burns moving back to D)
Michael Stone, PHO
Chris Tanev, VAN (marginal, but potential complimentary player)

Change of Scenery Needed?

Zach Bogosian, WPG (passed by Trouba)
Erik Gudbranson, FLA (stalling; still a core player?)

Knocking at the door or stepping through:

Chris Wideman, OTT (huge numbers in AHL, mostly vs Syracuse)
Ryan Pulock, NYI
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, BUF
David Runblad, CHI (injured this year)
Adam Clendening, CHI (van Riemsdyk just signed)
Stefan Elliott, COL (stalling with Colorado organization)
Ryan Sproul, DET
Steven Santini, NJ
Connor Murphy, PHO
Connor Carrick, WSH

Way Outside the Box:

Brent Seabrook, CHI (5.8M, Limited NTC)
Justin Schultz, EDM (TB was after him during sweepstakes)

UFA (Yzerman stated team can’t count on building through UFA):

Matt Niskanen, PIT
Dan Boyle, SJ

Draft:

Aaron Ekblad is the only defenseman in this year's draft capable of stepping onto an NHL roster and excelling. The Lightning would have to trade up into the No. 1 slot to get him. Unlike Victor Hedman's situation after he was drafted, Ekblad would find himself on a playoff team right out of the shoot and could provide solid play while developing, much the same as Drew Doughty did in LA.

Internal:

Radko Gudas - Much more of a people-mover than a puck-mover, Gudas needs to stay at about 18/20 minutes a night as a No. 4 right now. He may develop into a top-pair guy as a complimentary player, but first he has to stay healthy and stay fit mentally. Fatigue caused some lost focus last year. He was also battling nagging injuries.

Andrej Sustr - He may one day be a nice complimentary top pair guy, but he's not ready yet. He should start next year as the right side D on the third pair and see where that leads him. If he stays there all year, that's not a bad thing either. He has to get playing time, though.

Artem Sergeev and Dylan Blujus aren't NHL-ready and aren't knocking on the door yet. Both project as bottom-pair guys right now at the most.