Photo credit:© Kim Klement Neitzel - USA Today
Meet the Buyers: With Mikhail Sergachev’s injury, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in the market for a defenceman
12 days ago
An injury opened the door for the Calgary Flames to make a trade with this team.
This is Meet the Buyers, where we look at teams that are contenders for the Stanley Cup, and what they need to improve their chances. The Calgary Flames have two players – Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin – set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Moreover, the Flames could flip Andrei Kuzmenko or Yegor Sharangovich for a maximum return at this season’s deadline.
In this edition, we’ll look at the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with their needs, their assets, and the cap situation of both teams.
The needs of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Nearly a month ago, Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff released an article listing every team’s needs in the Eastern Conference. At the time, he noted that the Lightning should just let everything play out and that the team has an old core. However, with the unfortunate Mikhail Sergachev injury, the Lightning are surely looking for a defenceman at the deadline, as they were already doing so prior to the injury.
As of the morning of Feb. 10, the Lightning’s first pair is Victor Hedman and Darren Raddysh, second pair is Emil Martinsen-Lilleberg and Erik Cernak, and their third pair is Calvin De Haan and Nick Perbix. (Thanks to Daily Faceoff’s daily lines.)
Obviously, the Lightning needed an upgrade even with Sergachev in the lineup, but without him, the Lightning hardly looks like a team that will contend for a cup. Well, enter the Flames’ two soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, Tanev and Hanifin.
Tanev probably wouldn’t play on the first pairing alongside Hedman, but he’d slot in nicely behind Raddysh, who has four goals and 19 points this season. Alternatively, the Lightning could place Tanev on the third pair, as Cernak has played 287.9 minutes against elite competition, or 44.5% of his ice time according to Woodmoney.
Although there are no great right-shot defenceman on the Lightning with Sergachev’s injury, Raddysh, Cernak, and Perbix all play a role with the Lightning, but Perbix would be the odd-man out in the situation as he plays the penalty kill, but not against often against elite players.
Hanifin would be a much better fit for the Lightning, as he would slot in nicely on the second pair. Martinsen-Lilleberg has 12 National Hockey League games under his belt, picking up two assists and a -5. De Haan has played 46 games this season and is a solid third pairing defenceman, but like Martinsen-Lilleberg, doesn’t play against elite competition often.
According to Woodmoney, Martinsen-Lilleberg has played 50.8 minutes against elite competition, or 27.1% of his ice time, while De Haan has played 171.9 minutes against elites, or 25.6% of his ice time. Hanifin, on the other hand, has played 401.9 minutes against elites, or 43% of his ice time. The ice time ranks third-most against elites, with his percentage ranking fifth-most.
What assets do the Tampa Bay Lightning have to offer
Since the 2020 draft, the Lightning have only made one first-round selection and three second-round selections. It makes sense that The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler ranks their farm system as his 29th-best (or fourth-worst). Heading into the season, The Hockey Writers ranked the Lightning’s farm system 30th in the league.
The Lightning’s top five prospects according to Wheeler are Isaac Howard, Ethan Gauthier, Jack Thompson, Dylan Duke, and Hugo Alnefelt. The Hockey Writers have the same five players, but in a different order (Gauthier, Thompson, Howard, Alnefelt, Duke).
Howard has been their only first-round pick in recent times, and he has seven goals and 25 points in 27 games with Michigan State University. The left-winger transferred from University of Minnesota-Duluth after the 2022-23 season, where he had six goals and 17 points in 35 games. He played for the United States in the 2024 World Junior Championship, scoring seven goals and nine points in seven games en route to a gold medal.
Gauthier was selected with their second-round pick in 2023. So far in 2023-24, the right-winger has 29 goals and 53 points in 46 games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League. His career-high is 30 goals and 69 points in 66 games, so he’ll probably blow right past that this season.
Thompson was selected in the third-round of the 2020 draft. The right-shot defenceman has four goals and 29 points in 42 games this season with the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate. Last season with the same team, he had eight goals and 23 points in 71 games.
Duke was selected in the fourth-round of the 2021 draft and has played his last three seasons at the University of Michigan. The left-winger has already set a career-high, scoring 16 goals and 33 points in 27 games, with the latter surpassing the 32 points he had in 2022-23. Duke needs just two goals to match his career-high goal total.
Alnefelt was selected in the third-round of the 2019 draft. The netminder plays for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and has a .909 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average in 19 games played. He has also played in one National Hockey League game, where he allowed three goals on 10 shots in 2021-22.
The Lightning draft picks like they’re candy, as they don’t have their first-rounder because they traded it for Brandon Hagel before the 2022 deadline. Their 2024 second-round pick and 2025 first-round pick were involved in the Tanner Jeannot trade at last season’s deadline. This gives them just a 2025 second-round pick, as well as all of their 2026 and 2027 draft picks. All of this is according to Puckpedia.
The cap situation of both teams
As of Feb.10, the Lightning have $1,715,000 in available cap space, mainly due to $10,314,998 of cap being on the long-term injured reserve. They’ll get even more relief whenever they put Sergachev on the long-term injured reserve, something they’ve yet to do.
For the Flames players, Hanifin has a cap hit of $4.95 million and will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. So will Tanev, who has a $4.5 million cap hit.
Fitting Hanifin or Tanev shouldn’t be too much of an issue in terms of cap. What may not work out is the lack of assets the Lightning have to offer. Both their 2024 and 2025 first-round picks have already been traded, and they don’t have a 2024 second-rounder either. Not just that, but their prospect pool is lacking as well, as Isaac Howard has been the only standout.
There’s a fit, but who knows if the Lightning can pull it off.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. Let’s hope Sergachev has a fast recovery.
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