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Lightning transform defense with three deals at Monday trade deadline

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman made over his blue line in just a short time span during what turned out to be a busy Monday leading up to the NHL trade deadline.

In three separate deals, the Bolts acquired defenseman Mike Commodore from the Detroit Red Wings, Keith Aulie from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Brian Lee from the Ottawa Senators.

“Defensemen are hard to find,” Yzerman said. “But we were looking for young guys, looking for guys whose contracts were appropriate, so [these moves] fit with what we are trying to do. We’re very pleased with the moves we made today.”

Of the three additions, Aulie is perceived to have the most upside as a young defenseman, who at 6-foot-6, 217 pounds, adds size to the Bolts’ blue line and is well regarded for his play in the defensive zone.

Acquired in exchange for forward prospect Carter Ashton, Aulie has played in 17 games with the Maple Leafs this season, collecting two assists and 16 penalty minutes. He has also skated in 23 games with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, recording one assist and 30 penalty minutes.

“He’s a player that we had been talking about for some time,” Yzerman said of Aulie. “We really didn’t come into today expecting to do a whole lot, but we had hoped to acquire Keith Aulie, although we really weren’t sure where that was going to go, and we had to give up a very good forward prospect to get him. But we felt that with some of the forward depth we have, we could afford to move one of them in exchange for a defenseman.”

Aulie was Tampa Bay’s second piece added to the roster on Monday, coming after Yzerman sent a conditional seventh-round draft choice to the Red Wings in exchange for Commodore, who adds a veteran presence as well as some experience after appearing in 471 career NHL games with Detroit, the New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets during an 11-year career. The long-tenured defenseman also played for Yzerman’s gold-medal winning 2007 World Championship team.

Detroit, however, only gets the pick if Commodore plays 15 or more regular-season games with the Lightning and if Tampa Bay makes the playoffs this season.

Yzerman made his final move of the day by adding defenseman Brian Lee from Ottawa in exchange for Matt Gilroy, who had skated in 53 games for the Bolts this season and recorded two goals and 15 assists, while earning a plus-two rating.

Lee, the ninth overall pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, has played in 35 NHL games this season, registering a goal and seven assists. He has played parts of five seasons with the Senators, with the current campaign being just his second as a full-time member of the NHL roster. In 167 career NHL games, the 6-3, 205- pound Lee has five goals, 23 assists and a minus-18 rating.

The Bolts general manager also stated Monday that there was some interest in acquiring a goaltender, but not enough in order to do something that made sense for the club.

“We have some areas of concern on our team, but we will see how the rest of the season pans out,” Yzerman said. “You weigh what the player offered can give you and what they bring to your team now and for the rest of the year, but nothing made sense for us to do in goal.”

Monday’s moves feed into Yzerman’s calculation that the Bolts blue line needed to add some size and quicker mobility, while also providing pieces for young cornerstones Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to build around.

Yzerman said he expects both Commodore and Lee to be in the lineup Tuesday night against the Canadiens, whereas Aulie is not likely to join the team before Wednesday as he awaits a Visa.

The deals also coincide with the status of Hedman, which Yzerman said was still unknown as of Monday evening, although did reveal that Hedman had an appointment scheduled with doctors and that the team should have more information by Tuesday.

Lightning Moves Since December

Date   Acquired Traded  Team  Link 
12.2.11 D Evan Oberg and D Mike Kostka F James Wright and D Mike Vernace Florida More Info
1.6.12 Brendan Mikkelson  Blair Jones Calgary  More Info
2.16.12 Second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft C Dominic Moore San Jose More Info
2.18.12 Conditional 2012 or 2013 Second Round Entry Draft Pick, a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and left wing Jon Kalinski  D Pavel Kubina  Philadelphia  More Info
2.21.12 D Kyle Quincy  RW Steve Downie Colorado  More Info
2.21.12 First-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and D Sebastien Piche D Kyle Quincey  Detroit  More Info
2.21.12 F Brandon Segal  F Matt Fornataro Chicago  More Info
2.23.12 F Tim Wallace Waivers New York Islanders More Info
2.27.12 D Mike Commodore Conditional seventh-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Detroit  More Info
2.27.12 D Brian Lee D Matt Gilroy Ottawa More Info
2.17.12 D Keith Aulie C Carter Ashton Toronto More Info
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