Negotiating a trade or a contract is about leverage. It’s about striking during the windows that are most advantageous. We saw it at this trade deadline. There was an ebb and flow to just when the perfect time to make a deal was.
Lighting GM Steve Yzerman has as good an understanding of this as anyone in the game. He could have done nothing at this deadline and defended it pretty well. Steven Stamkos is getting healthy. He has a team that could make the playoffs. But it would have come with a painful price this offseason, when contract bonuses would have rolled into next season’s salary cap, and useful players would have had to have been moved for cap or expansion draft purposes. The Lightning would have lost all leverage in making moves this summer to improve their chances of winning a Stanley Cup next year.
So, he sold.
In his mind, it wasn’t even all that much of a choice.
“I don’t have the luxury of waiting,” he said of his moves that sent Ben Bishop, Valtteri Filppula and longtime Lightning fan favorite Mark Streit out of town. “I need to take advantage of the trade deadline. It’s a different atmosphere.”
It was a window in which he could do some serious work and make the most progress towards fielding a Stanley Cup contender for the 2017-18 season.
In the process, the Lightning were able to free up $1.7 million in cap space this year to make room for player bonuses anticipated to track in at just over $1 million. They freed up $2.1 million in actual cash, no small consideration for ownership. They got an additional $5 million in cap space for next season and added an extra slot in the expansion draft protection by trading Filppula, whose no-movement clause required protection.
Ultimately, they did it all without damaging their playoff chances this season. It was great work. In ranking the efforts of all 30 turned in around the trade deadline, the Lightning are right near the top, just behind the clear No. 1 team: