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Busy Lightning solidify defense with three trades

by Lonnie Herman /
TAMPA, Fla. -- Lightning GM Steve Yzerman expected a quiet Trade Deadline day. Things didn't quite turn out that way, though. But Yzerman expressed that the activity, which amounted to three separate trades, was worth it.

"Defensemen are hard to find," he said.

So when he found three of them available Monday, each at the right price, he moved.

Yzerman added veteran Mike Commodore from Detroit, former first-round selection Brian Lee from Ottawa and highly regarded prospect Keith Aulie from Toronto.


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The Lightning acquired Commodore, a former Stanley Cup winner, from the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2013. The seldom-used defenseman was languishing on the Red Wings' depth chart, appearing in only 17 games this season with two assists.

Yzerman choose Commodore to play for the 2007 World Championship club that he assembled and holds the veteran, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, in high regard.

"Mike Commodore helps us this year," Yzerman said. "He's a big guy, a good guy in the room, and we'll wait and see where that goes next year."

Yzerman had looked at bringing Brian Lee into the fold before, as Tampa Bay pushed torward the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Nothing came of it then, but when Senator general manager Brian Murray called today and asked about Matt Gilroy, Yzerman was ready to talk.

"Brian Lee has some NHL experience and we think he has a chance to be a good player," Yzerman said. "We still hadn't decided one way or another on resigning Matt Gilroy, so when this offer came in we thought about it and were intrigued by Brian Lee.

"They are both good skaters but Gilroy will go up the ice with the puck. He's going to make plays with it. We think of Brian Lee as more defensive-minded and better in the defensive end. He's also a restricted free agent against Gilroy, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season."

The plum acquisition, in Yzerman's opinion, was prying Keith Aulie from Toronto. But, it didn't come without a price. The Lightning sent 2009 first-round draft pick Carter Ashton to the Maple Leafs, who were seeking a big forward.

"We think Keith Aulie will be an effective NHL player," Yzerman said.

As soon as Aulie, a Canadian, receives a visa -- which might take up to two days -- he will be inserted in the Lightning lineup.

Keith Aulie
Defense - TBL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 14 | +/-: -2
"He's a young guy and he's been up and down to the AHL this year but in watching him we thought he was close to being an NHL regular," Yzerman said. "He's a player we've been talking about and following for a long time. Keith is 6-foot-5 and a very mobile, stay-at-home defenseman. In general, people thought that he was going to be an offensive-minded, power-play defenseman. We see him more as a reliable stay-at-home guy. We think Keith Aulie will be an effective NHL player."

When his unexpectedly busy day was finished, Yzerman was pleased with his handywork.

"I'm encouraged by bringing these three guys in," Yzerman said. "We're trying to bring defensemen in. We need them this year and we need them next year. We changed our blueline around and hung on to the draft picks that we acquired."

Not an easy thing to do, especially since Yzerman found very few willing trading partners.

"There are so many teams right on the bubble," Yzerman said. "The teams that are in the playoffs don't want to give up players and so there are not many trading partners for the teams trying to add to get in. It makes it hard to make a deal. We're trying to find good players and good players that don't make a lot of money. That's hard to do."

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