I exchanged several tweets with Tampa Bay Lightning fans this morning after sharing my opinions on reports that the Bolts should/could/might be interested in acquiring Philadelphia Flyers forward Simon Gagne.
I came away slightly disheartened.
Have we learned nothing from the last two summers?
Granted, making a play for a proven commodity in Gagne wouldn’t exactly be on par with some of the outlandish moves of recent off-seasons gone by. However, a deal for this very injury-prone, very expensive winger (albeit a short-term expense, in all likelihood) doesn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with general manager Steve Yzerman’s “methodical” mantra.
You see, I see adding a guy like Gagne – a risky investment, any way you look at it – as a move more suited to a Stanley Cup contender. And make no mistake about it, the Lightning aren’t anywhere near that status right now. You, me, Yzerman and, hell, ThunderBug would be crazy to think otherwise.
Playoffs this season? Sure. Why not? The newfound stability and confidence permeating throughout the organization lately probably would have been enough on its own to push last year’s roster, completely untouched, right into that conversation. But challenge for the Cup in year one of the Vinik/Yzerman era? Come on… How about we shoot for not finishing in the bottom-six of the entire NHL for the first time in four seasons, for starters?
Nobody’s doubting the talent of Simon Gagne here and, yes, if the Flyers are truly “desperate” to create cap space then one would think the asking price wouldn’t be unreasonable. If so, you have a conversation or two. But the minute Philly thinks they’re hauling a significant return in the deal, you walk.
(As a bit of a side note, I now find it hilarious that the Flyers are apparently in desperation mode, in terms of moving salary. What business, in the name of Alexei Yashin, did they have in acquiring Andrej Meszaros and his $4 million dollar cap hit until 2014 then? And the $2 million they’ll be shelling out to Nikolai Zherdev, of all people, is a better investment than hanging onto Gagne? What’s going on up there, Philly kids?)
Maybe a healthy Gagne would be aces alongside Vincent Lecavalier. Maybe. But keep in mind that Alex Tanguay was supposed to work well there too and that turned out to be about as big a nightmare as any from last season’s train wreck.
(Another side note, whoever the latest cure to Vinny’s ills ends up being should be a relatively moot point. I’ve long said it’s high time Lecavalier starts making those around him better. Period. But it’s far too early to get on him…)
And if you’re looking at Tampa Bay acquiring Gagne for more than just a year, i.e. theoretically re-signing him after a successful first season, stop. Unless, that is, you’re prepared to undo all the good that the magic of Yzerman jettisoning Meszaros did in one fell swoop.
Gagne comes in, has a 30 or 40-goal season, and reinvigorates the captain at the same time? Great. Now you’re stuck. Re-sign a now 31-year-old Gagne long-term or go back to having to move Ryan Malone, realistically. (Recent responses to my putting forth that reality before the Meszaros move were met rather unkindly by Lightning Nation, for what it’s worth.) And the idea around here is supposed to be to create some long-term flexibility, you might recall.
Is Simon Gagne a risk worth taking? Another maybe. It depends, again, on the asking price which, unless it’s of Meszaros for a 2nd rounder quality (only this time, in reverse), forget it.
You want to flip, say, one of Tampa’s highly-regarded goaltending prospects or a first rounder for an injury risk now, in the summer? Or you want to hold on to those chips until some time in March when, hopefully, this team is in position to strengthen itself for a playoff run? Simple choice (well, for me anyway…)
Could you add Gagne for a year and continue the slow, long-term focus as well? Sure. But you might end up kicking yourself anyway for 50-or-so games in return at a $5 million dollar cost.
And let’s all hold our horses one last time as we recall Gagne’s no-movement clause, a potential deal-breaker, even if something tangible actually materializes here. He’s 30-plus now and, odds are, wouldn’t exactly accept a deal anywhere. (Though I will buy into the argument that the so-called “Yzerman factor” now makes Tampa Bay far more attractive than any old anywhere franchise.) But who’s to say the player doesn’t want some stability of his own beyond 2010-11? With NMC rights, he can wield a pretty mighty hammer. “That team only wants me for a year? No thanks. Not waiving.” Yeah, that kind of hammer.
This franchise is just beginning to get back to its feet and shake the cobwebs of a dizzying couple of seasons. Yzerman’s methodical approach is the right call. This is not an entire rebuild but the slow, analytical direction is the way to go.
And while many fans might be just fine with making a quick fix, shot in the dark type of leap in getting after Simon Gagne, Yzerman and the Lightning are probably better off staying the course.
About the Author: Jon Jordan established himself as one of the web's most reliable resources on the Tampa Bay Lightning for four-plus seasons, covering the Bolts for HockeyBuzz.com and then Kukla's Korner, as well as contributing several guest spots around the web and in print, including Yahoo! Sports, McKeen's Hockey, AOL Fanhouse, NBC/Versus and of course, a stint right here at HI. "JJ" has offered his opinion as a guest on dozens of radio shows across the US and Canada, most notably featured on SiriusXM's NHL Home Ice, and co-founded and co-hosted "The Bolts Beat" podcast (formerly known as "BoltsBuzz Radio") which ultimately became "Hockey Night in Tampa Bay" on the local airwaves at ESPN1040 in Tampa. Outside of hockey, Jon co-founded and served as contributing editor for LockedInMMA.com, focusing on the Florida fight scene and covers college basketball for Sports Direct, Inc. After stepping away from hockey coverage almost completely for the 2011-12 season, Jon will contribute intermittently here again in 2012-13.