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Despite difficult decisions, Yzerman sticks to long-term vision

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

For as much as Steve Yzerman is looking towards the future, his team just won’t give up on the present.

Still, that hasn’t deterred the Bolts general manager from moving key contributors off the current club in exchange for draft picks and prospects, which he believes will go a long way in building the Lightning into a perennial Stanley Cup contender for years to come.

Based on the determination that building organizational depth through the draft is the best way to create a franchise that can sustain success, Yzerman swapped out three of the team’s front-line players in just the past week for a rather significant return.

As a result, Tampa Bay now has two first-round selections in the upcoming 2012 Draft, as well as a maximum of four second-round selections. Come June, the deals afford Yzerman a degree of flexibility with which he can use to either utilize those picks to maneuver up in the draft, or package them in exchange for a No. 1 goaltender or a top defenseman in a trade.

My goal is to win a Stanley Cup here, and I think we have to do some tough and difficult things along the way to do that. - Steve Yzerman
And, with the trades of Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Steve Downie taking each of the players’ respective salaries off the books, the Lightning also have the opportunity to comfortably look at the option of bringing on a high-profile player with a potentially steep asking price.

“These moves are made to make us better in the future,” Yzerman said. “Our picks give us options. My goal is to win a Stanley Cup here, and I think we have to do some tough and difficult things along the way to do that. We need to draft well and build that way, and [these trades] were an opportunity to take advantage of that and acquire more picks, and relatively high picks. The message to our players has been that I want to win a Stanley Cup and I’m going to do what I have to do to get us there.”

Yzerman didn’t hesitate to concede the decisions have not been easy.

Aside from parting with players who were popular among the fan base, as well as very close with several members still on the team, it’s difficult to assess the sheer value of the trades simply because the deals have yet to bring back immediate gratification.

Rather, the process is one Yzerman knows takes time, and as he is showing, one that he is more than willing to be patient with.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman spoke with media following Tuesday's transactions.
“When I mention things [to head coach Guy Boucher], his first question is what are we getting back,” Yzerman told The Tampa Bay Times. “He's waiting for a name, not a draft pick, and I can see the wind come out of his sails when I say a draft pick.”

Despite the difficult seven-day period that has proved to be a whirlwind of emotions, the Lightning are still holding out hope that making the playoffs this season is highly achievable.

With a 10-3-2 record in its past 15 games, Tampa Bay sits just five points out of not only the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but just as well that of the Southeast Division lead. Having said that, Yzerman admitted he is probably not the most popular figure in the minds of the players at the moment, being that he has been in full seller mode during a streak in which the team has won three consecutive games.

“The danger of waiting until tomorrow is that there’s a chance you lose the deal,” Yzerman added. “You make the deal when all parties are comfortable, and that’s the timing of it. My only message to the team right now is that I feel that I have to do what I think is necessary to make us a Stanley Cup contender. I think these moves get us going in that direction again.”

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