Gagne to Tampa Anything but “Methodical”

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.

JJ

jjordan79@tampabay.rr.com
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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.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jon Jordan, TB Lightning Feed and Tyler Logan, TB Lightning Feed. TB Lightning Feed said: #TBLightning Gagne to Tampa Anything but “Methodical”: I exchanged several tweets with Tampa Bay… http://19FTW.in/2gMcs via @HockeyIndie [...]

  2. Patrick says:

    For the most part, I agree with everything you are saying here. One plus I see for the team that does get Gagne, is they get him in a contract year. I see him striving to hit that 40 goal mark again to set himself up for a nice fat final contract. He can go sign that with someone else next year. But as you said, I don’t really want to give up any valuable asset for a rental player.

    • Jon Jordan says:

      Yeah, that’s the thing. If the Bolts were in a position to either add a guy like Gagne for one year OR to bring him in with the intent of re-signing him long-term, I could see this working. But they’re neither here nor there.

      All that does is basically bring me back to my original thought which is, unless Philly so desperately has to move him that they’re willing to take next-to-nothing in return, the Lightning are better suited looking elsewhere.

      JJ

  3. Lightning3A says:

    I am on the fence in regards to the 1st 2 lines. Part of me says but a younger lad up there, the other part says go with another “Tanguay-esque” approach. The Tanguay approach, however, did not work out. That was under a different regime though. Stuff to consider.

    I think that a Tyrell, Ashton, or perhaps Connelly would be a good fit to fill out the top six, though the learning curve would be steep indeed.

    I am willing to wait another season if it means we throw a kid on the vacant top six slot. Meh, who knows, he may do well with the talent surrounding him.

    • Jon Jordan says:

      Here’s what I do: Ink up a couple of mucker/grinder types – veterans of the Kirk Maltby/Arron Asham molds, perhaps – to round out the bottom six. That leaves you with 2-3 roster spots up for grabs in camp.

      You hope one is earned by this Niklas Persson fellow they signed out of Sweden (played in the KHL last year) and another, ideally, by Johan Harju.

      That last spot then goes to whatever youngster has the best showing in camp. (And by youngster, I mean 19, 20, 21-year-old, a la Ashton, Tyrell, Wright – NOT Connolly, with only 85 games of major junior experience.)

      As the season draws closer, that final spot on the top two lines goes to whichever player deserves it most/shows the most chemistry with Vinny. Could be a holdover or a young guy… Whoever wins it.

      I like this approach far better than an investment in Gagne, for all of the reasons I’d stated earlier.

      JJ

      • Mike Gallimore says:

        So, essentially, you’re telling me you’d rather have Persson, Harju, Ashton, Tyrell (all with a combined 0 games of NHL experience), Wright (5pts in all of 48gp) or Purcell (34pts in 110gp) on Vinny’s wing as opposed to a bona-fide top-6 winger like Simon Gagne because he might, like, get injured and might be sad that he has to play a proverbial “contract year”.

        I don’t buy that logic. Especially when you could make the case that acquiring a veteran top-6 winger IS adhering to a “methodical” approach by reducing the need to possibly rush one, or two, of the kids into action.

        Of course, you have provided the caveat that it depends on what the return to Philly would be. I think we can emphatically agree that Yzerman should not, and probably won’t, sell the farm, but I think it’s disingenuous to dismiss acquiring Gagne as some ill-timed opportunity. Do you think Steve Yzerman coaxed Martin St. Louis into signing his 4-year contract extension with “Well, we’re really going to try hard not to finish in the bottom six next year but, gee, Marty, think how great competing in the playoffs will be a few seasons from now!”? Guys like Marty and Vinny want to win and they want to start winning now. Ownership and management wants sustained success. If Gagne can be acquired without compromising “The Plan”, then it’s well worth not playing linemate carousel w/ Vinny.

        • Jon Jordan says:

          Recent history dictates that Simon Gagne won’t last more than 50 games for a variety of injury-related reasons. That’s a fact.

          $5.2 million for THAT is not at all methodical.

          And if he’s the latest and greatest “fix” for Vinny and he comes up short of an 80+ point season for both, it’s (yet another) failure.

          High time Vinny makes the players around him better… And, unless it’s for virtually nothing in return, Gagne at that price is an irresponsible investment.

          JJ

    • Mike Gallimore says:

      The whole idea of a “methodical” NHL organization that develops its players would suggest that that young prospects are not rushed into action, especially not pressed into critical roles.

      If Yzerman does not attempt acquire a top-6 winger via trade or free agency, you can all but pencil Purcell in along Lecavalier’s wing to start the season. Not the end of the world in and of itself.

  4. Fred Poulin says:

    I agree with Mike, Gagne is a much better player than Tanguay and I’m sure he would waive his no-trade clause to go to Tampa Bay. It’s not like the Bolt has any prospect ready to take on a major offensively. The return would likely be a draft pick anyway or a cheap prospect as the Flyers are cash-strapped for next season.

    • Jon Jordan says:

      If the return is a 2nd rounder (MAX), fine. Otherwise, walk.

      And I’d be willing to bet Gagne ends up getting flipped for far more than that (if he is traded at all, that is).

      Tanguay, for what it’s worth, actually averages 68 points per 82 games to Gagne’s 65 so, statistically speaking, he’s not anything near “a much better player”. And we all saw how he turned out last year.

      The main point of all of this is that SO MANY LIGHTNING PEOPLE have overreacted to a rumor with little substance behind it and I am disappointed in their willingness to so quickly revert back to the free-wheeling, act-on-a-whim moves of the past two off-seasons. Simon Gagne is not a fit. Mark that down.

      And mark down that, if he doesn’t end up in Tampa, SOMEONE will pay far too much for him as well.

      JJ

  5. Jon Jordan says:

    Suffice it to say that, with Matt Walker and a 4th rounder going to Philly for Gagne, I no longer have a single complaint.

    Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong!

    JJ