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Trade Coverage

NHL Trade Buzz: Tough decisions loom for Lightning

Whether to keep goalie Ben Bishop, forward Brian Boyle presents challenge for GM Steve Yzerman

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are 10 days remaining until the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET, March 1), and the Toronto Maple Leafs are showing they remain committed to their long-term rebuilding plan. Also, the Tampa Bay Lightning will soon have to make tough decisions on what to do with potential unrestricted free agents Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle.

Here's a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

After leading 2-0 and 3-2, the Lightning let a much-needed point slip away in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, leaving them six out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. With four games left before March 1, including one at the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; ALT, SUN, NHL.TV), the Lightning are unlikely to be in a playoff spot on deadline day.

So general manager Steve Yzerman will have to make some difficult decisions soon about whether to move center Brian Boyle and goaltender Ben Bishop, who can become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Video: TBL@WPG: Boyle deflects Hedman's one-timer into twine

This was supposed to be the year the Lightning finally got over the hump and won the Stanley Cup after reaching the Final in 2015 and falling one win short of repeating as Eastern Conference champions last season. It hasn't worked out so far with injuries, including captain Steven Stamkos' torn meniscus, and the Lightning being unable to string together more than two consecutive wins since mid-November.

That hasn't given Yzerman much reason to believe it would be worth holding onto Bishop and Boyle for the stretch run rather than get something for them before they are able to leave for nothing this summer.

Bishop's future has been a topic of discussion throughout the season, but the Tampa Bay Times reported Saturday that the market for him has been quiet. The Stars, who haven't gotten consistent goaltending from Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, might have been a potential suitor if they weren't six points out of the second wild card from the Western Conference.

Interest in Boyle, 32, appears to be greater with the Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers reportedly in the mix. Boyle, a reliable and versatile forward, has played in 100 NHL playoff games, including Stanley Cup Final appearances with the New York Rangers in 2014 and the Lightning in 2015. That experience would be valuable to any contender.

"I want to stay here," Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. "We've been on a mission for a few years now and haven't accomplished it yet. We want to do it here."

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

General manager Lou Lamoriello did something Saturday that he had never done in nearly 30 years as an NHL general manager: He made a trade with the New Jersey Devils.

Of course, Lamoriello spent 28 years with the Devils before leaving to join the Maple Leafs on July 23, 2015. Still, completing what was essentially a depth trade in acquiring forward Sergey Kalinin for defenseman Viktor Loov did have some significance in that Lamoriello conducted business with New Jersey.

It also provided an example of the kind of move that Lamoriello is most likely to make, if he makes any more, before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline. In a Q&A with MapleLeafs.com on Saturday, Lamoriello made clear his commitment to stick with Toronto's long-term development plan.

Although the Maple Leafs are a little ahead of schedule in their rebuild -- they are one point out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference heading into their game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SN1, FS-CR, NHL.TV) -- Lamoriello said it is important to "make sure that we stay right on the same focus that we began with and don't get ahead of ourselves."

"When you get ahead of yourself, what you do is you get in your own way, and you sort of do something today, but you hold back the big picture," Lamoriello said. "And that is not something that we will do. But in saying that, it's like everything else -- if you can take care of today and tomorrow at the same time, then you have to look at it."

Kalinin, 25, can play center or wing, so he will give the Maple Leafs insurance if a forward on their fourth line is injured or underperforms. Because Kalinin cleared waivers earlier Saturday, the Maple Leafs were free to assign him to Toronto of the American Hockey League.

Video: BOS@NJD: Kalinin tallies off of Wood's feed in 3rd

Loov, 24, was expendable in that he was lower down on the Maple Leafs depth chart on defense and spent all of this season with the Marlies.

Lamoriello is very familiar with Kalinin. He had already begun the process of trying to sign Kalinin, who had been playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, before he handed the GM job over to Ray Shero in New Jersey on May 4, 2015.

But the addition of Kalinin didn't cause any shockwaves in Toronto and seemed to confirm what coach Mike Babcock said during his radio appearance on "Leafs Lunch" on TSN 1050 Toronto on Friday.

"Right now, if anybody is looking for us to be in the news on trade deadline day, I would find something else to do," Babcock said.

 

Ottawa Senators

Forward Curtis Lazar was out of the lineup again as a healthy scratch in a 6-3 win against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Although Lazar, 22, played in a 3-0 win against the Devils on Thursday, he has been a healthy scratch for five of the past six games and six of the past nine.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported Saturday that Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion met with Lazar's agent, J.P. Barry, on Friday to discuss the situation. According to Friedman, Barry reiterated what Lazar has been saying, which is that he wants to play, whether it be with Ottawa or elsewhere, but the Senators aren't looking to move him at this point because they believe he still has a future with Ottawa.

The Senators selected Lazar with the No. 17 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and he had 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 76 games last season. But Lazar has been limited to one point (one assist) and 8:28 of ice time in 30 games this season.

So his desire to play more is understandable.

Video: MTL@OTT: Lazar pads the lead with a shorthanded goal

"It's nothing against Ottawa or the Senators because I love playing here," Lazar said Thursday. "My main focus lately has been how to get back into the lineup. I haven't thought about anything else; you [media] people make with it what you want but, for myself, it's one day at a time."

The Senators' inclination to remain patient with a 22-year-old is also understandable, particularly because Lazar's trade value probably isn't very high at the moment. But with the chance to catch the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division and make some noise in the playoffs, it would make sense to at least explore the market and see if Lazar might fit into a trade that would help the Senators in that pursuit.

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