Bolts Acquire Braydon Coburn; Trade Connolly and Gudas (Commentary)

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas, along with the Lightning’s 2015 first round and third round picks, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. If Tampa Bay fails to make the playoffs in 2015 and ends up with the first overall selection, Philadelphia will receive the New York Rangers’ 2015 first round pick (previously acquired) in the draft in lieu of Tampa Bay’s own first round selection. Additionally, the Lightning have acquired the Boston Bruins’ 2015 and 2016 second round draft picks in exchange for forward Brett Connolly.

Coburn, 30, has skated in 39 games this season with the Flyers, recording one goal and nine points to go along with 16 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound defenseman ranks third among Flyer defensemen for average time on ice (20:14). Coburn leads Philadelphia for average shifts per game (27.9) this season.

The Shaunavon, Saskatchewan native has appeared in 614 career NHL games with the Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers, posting 37 goals and 166 points to go along with 504 penalty minutes. He set career highs for goals (nine), assists (27) and points (36) during the 2007-08 season while with the Flyers. Coburn has also skated in 72 career postseason games, all with the Flyers, collecting two goals and 23 points.

Coburn has represented Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships on two different occasions, capturing the Silver Medal in 2009. He also represented Team Canada at the World Jr. Championships twice, winning a Gold Medal in 2005 and a Silver Medal in 2004.

Coburn was originally selected by the Thrashers in the first round, eighth overall, at the 2003 NHL Draft.

BP Commentary (Chad):

Let’s start with Coburn. On the most recent podcast I said if the Lightning were to go far in the playoffs, they’d need to acquire a defenseman better than Garrison for the second pair. Coburn’s addition gives the Lightning a top-3 defense of Hedman, Stralman, and Coburn, with Garrison or Carle filling out the top four and Sustr back where a player of his experience level should be on the third pair. Coburn doesn’t move the puck as well as Garrison, but while the Lightning do struggle with breakouts, that need isn’t as big as their overall defensive need. Coburn improves the team’s down-low coverage, which was lacking strength. Coburn is not a top pair defenseman, but he doesn’t have to be. If he can settle in on the second pair with Garrison – a lefty with right-side experience – the Lightning really helped themselves. Keeping Carle and Sustr on the third pair also helps as they are more effective with fewer minutes. The addition also allows one or both of Nesterov and Witkowski to go down to Syracuse, which means the team is much more likely to go deep into the AHL playoffs now.

The price
Everyone and their disinterested mother knew the Lightning were probably going to move one of their first round picks this year. Especially with no second rounder, and especially x2 after every other good-not-great defenseman was moving for a first rounder and a solid prospect. The extra pick included isn’t great, but that’s the price. Gudas was a surprise. Gudas has grown up with the core and is in a player type that’s shallow in the organization (physical stay-at-homer). Once thought to project as “just” a third pair guy, Gudas showed signs in his final AHL years and early NHL time that he may be able to be a second pair guy down the road. He struggled in that role last season, but it was early and most of his mental mistakes came late in the year when fatigue was a factor. He didn’t start as well as expected this year, but he still had a role and future with the team. Gudas’ true value never really got to show as he’s someone you want in your lineup during the playoffs. He’s going to be a shift-disturber that opposing teams hate to play against. That obviously wasn’t going to happen this year with his knee injury. He’s also battled shoulder issues from time to time in his career. The Flyers are getting a nice third pair, physical defenseman. The Lightning have Sustr as a third pair guy and Witkowski will be with the Bolts next season and he’s in the same player category as Gudas. So is Jake Dotchin, for that matter, who has impressed in Syracuse this year.

Coburn is under contract for another year, so this wasn’t a rental. He can man that left-side spot next year on the second pair and the year after that can be traded for an asset to make room for Nesterov or Koekkoek or whomever else may be knocking at the door.

I think the Lightning come out better now with Coburn and will be fine in the future without Gudas and the picks. Their farm is plentiful and it’s not like they’re the Rangers with no picks left available. I think this was as good a trade as Yzerman was going to find from what was available for the overprice that everyone has to pay this time of year. While Oliver Ekman-Larsson would have been preferred, the price would have been out-of-this-world (starting with Drouin) – and that’s even if the Coyotes were willing to deal. The defense is better and more experienced with Coburn and that was wish-1.

Connolly to the Bruins
If you’ve listened to the podcast all year you know Connolly’s been on the bubble to be traded all season long. He’s a great guy and a determined player. It just hasn’t worked out for him in Tampa, primarily because he hasn’t been able to quickly take advantage of the limited-but-satisfactory opportunities he’s been given. He was an expendable piece and the Lightning acted like sellers in the deal to acquire additional picks. Getting two seconds for a guy who was rumored to be offered around the league at this time last year was a steal for Yzerman. Like Conacher before him, Connolly was swimming in a sea of similarly skilled young forwards and the Bolts will be just fine without him now (Drouin moves up) and in the future (opens up space for Namestnikov and possibly Erne or Marchessault next year). The Lightning clearly dealt from a position of strength and got themselves two tradable pieces that could be in play as the deadline nears later today. A shrewd move by Yzerman.

Wish List
If Yzerman is still on the lookout for more, I think the Lightning could use 1) A big, physical forward for bottom-6 2) Depth defenseman capable of helping on the power play 3) Scoring help for Syracuse

Post-Deadline Review:

I'm legitimately surprised Yzerman didn't acquire a forward with size. Kassian and Stewart were both available, and both certainly have their warts. I have concerns about the Lightning matched up against a team like Boston, but they should be okay against fellow speed teams. The defense is better and when you put the two deals together, as Yzerman purposefully did, the Lightning made out well. As Yzerman said in his press conference, Connolly's loss can be absorbed. I think that's a bit of an understatement, actually. I'm still amazed that Connolly fetched two second rounders as I think he's more Cory Conacher than he is Tyler Seguin (not a direct comparison in production, but an example of a player who took off with a new team). I do wish him the best of luck with Boston. That fanbase won't be patient, especially if he's being billed as an answer for a team longing for offensive help all season. He's a great guy, though, and these are human beings we're talking about.

I thought there might be a chance the Lightning would go after Marek Zidlicky or someone like him to play on the third pair or even as the 7 in order to help the power play. The power play did not get better this week, so the answer lies within. In my opinion, they have to utilize their playmakers more (like Drouin and Kucherov) regardless if they've gone through the learning curve the vets have had to go through. Cooper doesn't have time to send a message to Drouin or the vets anymore. If Filppula isn't cutting it on the power play, put the rookie in there. Drouin has to help himself though and take better care of the puck. He has to have the puck in space, though, and should be used more for possession entries on the power play.

Syracuse got a little bit of help when Corrente was moved to San Antonio for Martindale. That will help with forward depth, but not much in the skill department. The Lightning are down to 12 forwards on the NHL roster and Namestnikov was not recalled to Tampa Bay for the Sabres scrimmage. Vladdy, Marchessault, Carter Ashton, and possibly Tanner Richard are at the top of the recall list, probably in that order.

Help may be on the way, though. Brayden Point, a highly skilled 18-year-old playing in WHL Moose Jaw, is about to be available and can join the Crunch. Point's Warriors are five points out of a playoff spot with 10 games remaining, and it's not looking good for the team. Point can be signed to a temporary contract when his WHL season is over and he will add much-needed skill to the Crunch's lineup - especially if Vladdy or Marchessault are in Tampa. Other candidates to join the Crunch are Matt Peca of Quinnipiac University (Bobcats have top seed in conference playoffs, however), who can play in a scoring role; Cristiano DiGiacinto of OHL Windsor (if Syracuse wants a bottom line option - not sure it's needed); Cam Darcy, who will probably go at least two rounds in the QMJHL playoffs. Players who won't be available are Adam Erne (his Remparts are Memorial Cup hosts so even if they're upset in playoffs they keep practicing for the Memorial Cup tournament in late May), and Anthony DeAngelo, whose Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds will go at least three rounds, if not all the way through the Memorial Cup.