Aside from the Ilya Kovalchuk circus that continues to plod along, the Simon Gagne trade rumor side show is this off-season’s other entertaining show. While Gagne has acknowledged that he’s indeed a target for trades, where he could be headed is a bit wide open for speculation. While Los Angeles, should they fail to land Kovalchuk, has been mentioned, could the Tampa Bay Lightning be interested? Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times thinks out loud for us.
The Lightning apparently has interest in acquiring Flyers left wing Simon Gagne. It’s tough to tell how serious it is because no one within the organization has said so publicly, but it would be naïve to believe otherwise.
Put another way, why wouldn’t Tampa Bay at least inquire about a proven goals and points producer who is being shopped by a team desperate to clear cap space? And to put it even ANOTHER way: Why wouldn’t general manager Steve Yzerman be salivating over the possibility of having his top two lines be (left to right) Gagne-Vinny Lecavalier-Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Steve Downie?
Acquiring Gagne, 30, who in the past three seasons in which he was healthy scored 47, 41 and 34 goals, would make the Lightning automatic playoff contenders. It would spike ticket sales. It would make Tampa Bay relevant again in a market where it has been the butt of jokes the past two years. And, besides, what’s the harm in a little short-term gain while Yzerman decides what direction to take the team in the future?
After taking a look at what those first two lines could look like, would you argue against the Lightning instantly being in the mix for the playoffs? In the slightly more simple Eastern Conference, it’d be hard to say that the Lightning couldn’t be a playoff team. You would essentially be replacing Alex Tanguay, who was beyond miserable last season, with a proven scorer in Simon Gagne on that first line with Lecavalier and St. Louis.
Now, sure, I can temper things well by pointing out that Tampa’s third and fourth lines would be more than questionable as far as what they could do. Chances are those two lines would be a never-ending cycle of players being juggled about to see who can develop chemistry. But Tampa’s defense looks quite solid and their goaltending will be more than admirable with a duo of Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. So.. Why not go for it if you’re Steve Yzerman? Cristodero figures that out for us.
So, let’s assume Yzerman makes a move. What can he give back? Philadelphia is not looking to take on a lot of salary, so the Lightning likely would not include any of its major assets. But it does have eight defensemen with one-way contracts, so there is depth there from which to deal. The organization also is deep in attractive, high-end goaltending prospects. There also are the obligatory draft choices.
Then the question is, does Gagne, who has a no-trade clause, want to come to a rebuilding team? But if Gagne signed on, wouldn’t that time line get a little shorter?
More questions to be asked than answers, but then again, he’s just spitballing ideas as it is, and they’re good ones. The Lightning have the cap room, they don’t have to make a long-term investment and they have the pieces in place to help the Flyers out. There’s a lot to like about the possibilities here but you’d have to assume that, perhaps, Yzerman is maybe listening in on at least one available Russian free agent left wing (Alex Frolov) while another one (Ilya Kovalchuk) figures out what he wants to do with his future and break the free agency/transaction gridlock.