Lightning Bloggers Roundtable: Exploring the untouchables
Each week, Lightning bloggers from across the web will meet at TampaBayLightning.com to discuss a hot topic around the team.
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This week's topic: Which Lightning players would you consider untradable? Why do you view these players as the building blocks of the future over others?
Determining untouchable players is about assessing value, not just in the short term but also in the long-term. Which players offer the most value, and would be hardest to replace? Which players will continue to offer this value into the future? These are the players that ought to be considered untradeable.
Other than the obvious (Steven Stamkos), for the Lightning, that means the young core that GM Steve Yzerman has been building around. To Stamkos, I'd add Victor Hedman, who I would submit was the best defenseman at 5v5 in the league last year and is certainly one of the most underrated players in the NHL; Jonathan Drouin, who has a legitimate shot to be a superstar in the NHL after scoring at a ridiculous pace in the QMJHL; and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who could very well be the best goaltending prospect in the world.
These players -- one at each major position -- form a young core of elite talent that, if developed properly, could see the Lightning become a perennial Stanley Cup contender in the years to come.
Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Mark Barberio, Valtteri Filppula, Ben Bishop, Michael Kostka, Radko Gudas and Matt Carle. I view these players as building blocks because they have shown an ability to produce at a high level both offensively and defensively. Plus, a lot of them are young and will only get better with more experience. The others are good players which may prove valuable to other teams, allowing the Lightning to receive better, more experienced players that will help complement the young guys in building a perennial playoff and championship contender.
I think it’s important to preface any conversation about untradeable players with the fact even Wayne Gretzky got traded. Anyone can get traded (and players with No Trade / No Move clauses have been pushed out… So, while it won’t happen – saying Stamkos is untradeable is sort of contradictive to the history of the league.
That being said, Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin are the players who immediately top my list as cogs I wouldn’t deal. Those players are the team’s core right now.
My list doesn’t include other members of the system – AHL players and guys still in juniors or college -- but most of those players should also be on the list – because long-term success and depth is contingent on holding on to such assets, and not just trading them off for immediate help
When thinking about the Lightning's untouchable players, the first name that came to mind is defenseman Victor Hedman. The big blueliner is becoming one of the league's best defensemen that no one is talking about. He ended last season with 55 points, putting him in the top five among defensemen in the NHL. He had such a good year that it was shocking when he wasn't named to Sweden's Olympic team. Defensemen often take longer to mature into their position and Hedman has been improving steadily over the last four years. Some fans may have questioned if he would become the franchise player the Lightning envisioned when drafting him but he's well on his way and he's only 23. Don't be surprised if he crops up in the Norris trophy conversation in the years to come.
The next name that came to mind is Ben Bishop. Tampa's goaltending struggles have been well documented as has the importance of having a solid netminder. When healthy, Bishop's play was outstanding last season. Beyond that, his presence in the game allowed the skaters in front of him to play with a huge amount of confidence. If they made a mistake, they could count on the Vezina nominee to help them out of a jam. The huge role he played in the Lightning's success can't be understated. At the age of 27, Bishop is just entering his prime. This should make opposing scorers very nervous.
A final name among the untradeables may be a bit of a surprise as he has yet to play an NHL game in a Lightning sweater. Jonathan Drouin is going to be in Tampa, probably sooner rather than later. He absolutely decimated the QMJHL last season with 108 points in the regular season and 41 in the playoffs. It seems like only a matter of time before he's with the Bolts to stay. Close your eyes and imagine Drouin and Stamkos playing on the same line. Feels good, right? We might not have to wait too long to see it either.
Untradable, to me, is a dangerous word. To say that someone is untradable is to say that I wouldn’t move that player under any circumstances. The fan in me has emotional attachment to various players, but the objective blogger in me is willing trade anyone if the right deal (i.e. a deal that would make Tampa better) came along. As a result, my list of untradable players is very, very short.
Steven Stamkos (who the question already includes), Victor Hedman, and Jonathan Drouin are the only players I wouldn’t move. You’ll note that all three are young, and that all three play different positions. Stamkos is a centerman. Hedman is a defenseman. Drouin is a winger. Moreover, all three are elite, potentially generational talents. That can’t be replaced.
Noticeably absent from my list are guys like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula, and Tyler Johnson, among others. It’s not that I don’t value these players; the opposite is true. Rather, it’s that I would be comfortable moving them if it meant making the Lightning better in both the long and short term. My brain tells me that it’s not possible to deal a Stamkos, deal a Hedman, or deal a Drouin and come out on top.
Untradable is a funny word. If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, just about anyone can be traded.
I would think that players such as Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin shouldn't be touched along with Andrei Vasilevskiy. The reason being, GM Steve Yzerman is trying to build a competitive team from within instead of going out and trading these assets away.
From the beginning, he has always stated that he wants the Lightning to be a perennial contender and the best way to do that is to keep the talent you have and make a move when you must.
Trading away any of your future top-6 forwards or your goalie of the future defeats the purpose of "perennial contender."
I think the obvious answer to that question is Victor Hedman, simply because our defensive corps is probably our weakest area and he's by far the best defenseman we have. In fact, we saw glimpses last season of him taking the necessary steps to put himself among the best in the league. Beyond that, I'm not sure anybody should be labeled untouchable. Ideally, it would be a lot of fun to hang on to all the young guys who've made their NHL debuts in the last two years and see them all develop together. But if you can make a move involving some of them that improves the team right now without mortgaging the future, I think you have to do that. For the first time in a very long while, there's some real flexibility and opportunity to deal for want rather than need.