So, yeah, I’ve spent much of the last week preaching every reason I could think of as to why Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning should not acquire Simon Gagne from the Philadelphia Flyers and I did so in several forums. Here, where comments and responses elsewhere were split – about 50/50, in terms of those that agreed with my points versus those who thought differently; on the most recent episode of The Bolts Beat, where my Gagne-happy co-host, Mike Corcoran, fought me tooth and nail, point for point; and on Twitter, where I found significant support after wondering if I was the only one out there so vehemently against the move.
The problem is (or was, I suppose, now that Gagne is indeed officially the newest member of the Lightning), none of us, no matter how we were thinking, had any inclination that the price for a player of Gagne’s caliber would be as low as it turned out to be.
I opined that, at most, a 2nd round draft choice should be the offer out of Tampa Bay and that anything Philadelphia desired beyond that should be met with a chuckle, a thank you and a swift return to the wait-and-see, methodical approach.
But flipping another disappointment from seasons past in defenseman Matt Walker and a 4th rounder in 2011 for Gagne was far more (or less, depending on how you look at it) than anyone could have expected – and certainly a price worth whatever risk(s) come with the player.
While the Yzerman love fest appears to have already hit its stride here in Tampa, as evidenced by a second round of calls today from my readers for a statue in his honor outside the St. Pete Times Forum, folks may want to remind themselves that his team has yet to take the ice on his watch. That said, I can see how people have a hard time not getting ahead of themselves when you look at what the Lightning’s new GM has accomplished in a very short period of time.
Walker and fellow defenseman Andrej Meszaros, both with contracts considered to have crippling effects on any trade hopes for either player prior to Yzerman’s arrival, are no longer Tampa Bay’s problem. Regarding Meszaros, it was thought that if any team did have interest, the Lightning would be forced to take some unwanted salary back. That Yzerman was able to land a 2nd round draft choice from the Flyers in that deal still leaves many stumped.
Add the details of today’s move and you have a pair of Philadelphia-Tampa swaps that add up to highway robbery:
Meszaros, Walker and a fourth in 2011 for Gagne and a second in 2012.
$23.775 million in salary and a combined $5.7 million dollar cap hit until 2013 out and $5.25 for a single season in.
Granted, Philly was up against it, cap-wise but come on… Just what is it Stevie Y is holding over the collective heads of the Flyers organization? (The threat of running video of Darren McCarty’s undressing of Janne Niinimaa in the 1997 Cup Final on repeat on LightningVision whenever the Flyers come to town, perhaps?)
In all seriousness, I don’t mind being wrong from time to time and, since my potential beef with a Gagne trade was all contingent upon the asking price, how could I possibly have anything bad to say about the Lightning bringing in a player who has topped 20 goals seven times in his career, 30+ four times over and 40 or more twice for a 5/6 d-man and a mid-round pick next summer? Not a chance.
Further, for all of my public concerns about adding Gagne and worrying more long-term, should things work really well and he stick around for more than just a single season, clearing out Walker’s salary over the next three seasons at least lightens that burden somewhat – and potentially gives the Bolts a good problem to have.
It also gives them a top-six forward bunch that has the potential to be the best in the entire National Hockey League. Gagne-Steven Stamkos-Marty St. Louis-Vinny Lecavalier-Ryan Malone-Steve Downie… Impressive.
Any way you look at it, once again this summer, this team is better off, all-around, than they were yesterday.
Talent-wise, that would have happened in adding Gagne regardless but to move another unwanted long-term contract at the same time is where the real genius lies in this deal. And cue up “The Yzerman Factor” (trademarked by Corcoran, by the way, who’s pining for credit there and, team player that I am, I’m trying to help him out) as Gagne’s no-movement clause was no issue whatsoever.
The focus now can move to filling out the bottom-six forwards, though nothing may really have to be done there. Yzerman indicated on this afternoon’s conference call that he would be debating with his staff as to how that segment of the team should be fleshed out: via further free agent or trade explorations or through holdover options. There’s still a need for some grit but not necessarily the designated fighter type. (After all, were that a priority here, fan favorite Zenon Konopka could have easily been retained.) Instead, role players currently under contract could find themselves in a healthy competition in training camp, which is never a bad thing and several young players – including a few who might fill a third or fourth line role rather nicely – will also get a good look.
Walker’s exit also bodes well for players like Matts Lashoff and Smaby as well as other defensemen under contract. Head coach Guy Boucher’s affinity for an excess of blueliners and one less one-way contract in the mix increases the odds of an upstart rearguard nailing down a spot of his own in September.
All in all, the skill set that Gagne brings to the Lightning is reason enough to celebrate today’s deal but the fact that the intricacies of the transaction have made a positive impact in several areas for the organization should make fans appreciate what’s happening here tenfold.
And who knows? Maybe these statue crazies are onto something after all…
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.