The Tampa Bay Lightning trade deadline will be interesting to watch this season. Over the last several seasons, they’ve been active with deals. It started with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. More recently, it has been Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont. This season, there is a question of what the Lightning should do; buy or sell? Here at Last Word, Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta will start a series where they look at some potential trades. Let’s say they buy, who do they get? What do they give up? Today, we look at several under-the-radar, obscure forward targets the Lightning could get for a low price.
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Under-the-Radar Forward Targets
When it comes to the deadline, for teams that are cap-strapped, sometimes it comes down to the margins. What can be a low-cost (in more ways than one) add, while owning the potential to provide more value than expected? That’s where we take a dive into the proverbial clearance section of deadline offers. Specifically, what forwards are on the shelves for an affordable price for any team who may be looking their way?
Narrowing it down to basement-dwelling teams, we at Last Word took a list of about 15 forwards and narrowed it down to six. The players are, in no particular order, Joey Anderson, Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, Brock McGinn, Trey-Fix Wolansky, and Max Jones. Here, we will quickly break down their seasons with a film review and a check-up on their production. Our last piece focused on the first three names: Anderson, Bemstrom, and Foudy. Today, we will focus on the last three.
Brock McGinn, Anaheim Ducks
McGinn, drafted in the second round by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2012 NHL draft, is a veteran with over 500 NHL games on his resume. Playing for three different teams, he has totalled 508 NHL games and scored 150 points. This season, he has scored three points in 24 games. His career-best season came back in 2017-18 with the Hurricanes, where he produced 30 points (16 goals and 14 assists) in 80 games.
The Lightning need more depth scoring, and the discourse around that idea has grown recently. Why would they want McGinn? Well, the idea is that they acquire someone else alongside these cheaper options. Instead, McGinn brings a strong motor and a respectable defensive game. Overall, he grades essentially at replacement level on Evolving Hockey’s defensive metrics (even-strength defence goals above replacement and all-situations defence goals above replacement). But on film, he works hard in his own end. He actively supports low, clearing screens on occasion and engaging in battles. He’s also a physical forechecker, finishing his hits and forcing turnovers. His style could fit in while helping supplement some defensive ability as a forward.
Trey Fix-Wolansky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Fix-Wolansky is arguably the most interesting name but also the least likely out of the bunch. Nonetheless, Fix-Wolansky is a former seventh-round pick from the 2018 draft. He has yet to play more than ten NHL games in a single season but has totalled 16 games, scoring three points. Meanwhile, in the AHL, he has constantly dominated. Across six seasons, he has scored 181 points in 206 games. Why would they consider trading for a guy with such limited experience?
The first answer is cost. Fix-Wolansky is 24 and has yet to find his footing at the NHL level. Thus, he could be had for very cheap. Second, there’s genuinely some untapped potential there. He’s fast, involved in transition, and can generate some chaos with his speed and ability to win short-area races. When it comes to his NHL production, specifically his goals, both of them came off the rush. That could be a nice little fit for him on the team if they wanted to look his way.
Max Jones, Anaheim Ducks
Jones, a former first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2016, is closing in on 250 NHL games this season. In his career, all with the Ducks, he has played 241 games and scored 55 points, including 30 goals. His best season to this point came last season, scoring 19 points in 69 games. This season, so far, he has played 35 games and scored eight points. Why would the Lightning want someone like Jones?
Jones is another physical player. Not in the sense that he goes out of his way to land hard hits, but instead, he finishes his checks and often engages in physical board battles. He almost always finishes hard on those checks as well, often knocking opponents down or off-balance, even on hits in passing. For example, a shove as he’s skating after the puck. Alongside of his strength, he has solid speed as well, which causes more issues for opposing defenders. As for offence, it all stems from an outstanding forechecking ability. He can play the possession game, passing low to high, or flash with some centre-lane passes. As a goal-scorer, he attacks the net front constantly and finds pucks amongst chaos so well.
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Best (Cheap) Option
Similar to the first part, where we selected Bemstrom as the best option, we will select Jones. Like Bemstrom, Jones plays a heavy game, winning often on the forecheck. He also flashes on offence on occasion, with some defensive chops to boot. He isn’t a game-changer by any means, but he has matched up against Connor McDavid on multiple occasions this season, showing the trust of his coaches.
The other two forwards aren’t very attractive. McGinn is a vet who has more downs than ups at this point. While he could bolster the depth, he isn’t a player who would consistently roll into the lineup. With guys like Alex Barre-Boulet, Austin Watson, Tyler Motte, and some of the various rookie forwards who have drawn into the lineup, why would they want another forward who would be a 12th or 13th forward? Same with Fix-Wolansky. While he has decent upside, he doesn’t help right now. He’s small and is more of an empty-calorie scorer, like Barre-Boulet. Why add another forward like that when they already have one?
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: In Or Out On These Low-Cost Swings
Between the two “cheap” options of Jones and Bemstrom from part one, we here at Last Word would be in on one of them, if the price is right. The caveat, again, is that this would be more of a supplemental trade. If the Lightning acquired one of the other forwards we had mentioned, like Anthony Duclair or Thomas Novak, for example, this could look great.
With Mikhail Sergachev going on LTIR recently, there’s some new-found cap space. Adding one of the top forwards looked at plus one of these depth forwards is extremely plausible. Heck, maybe they could even snag a defenceman too! Bolts fans, what would be your ideal deadline trades?
Raw NHL stats and per-game stats via Hockey-Reference
Raw AHL stats via Elite Prospects
Main Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports