The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning made another trade on the eve of the deadline aimed at becoming the NHL’s first team to win three in a row since the 1980s.
The Lightning acquired forward Nick Paul from the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night for Mathieu Joseph and a 2024 fourth-round pick. The cap-strapped Lightning upgraded again up front thanks to Ottawa retaining 44.5% of Paul’s salary for the remainder of the season.
Tampa Bay got Paul two days after acquiring forward Brandon Hagel from Chicago for multiple first-round picks and players and in the aftermath of major movement around the Eastern Conference. Earlier Sunday, the Toronto Maple Leafs shored up their defense by dealing for Seattle captain Mark Giordano.
Traded on his 27th birthday, Paul brings more size to the Lightning at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds. He has 11 goals and eight assists this season with Ottawa.
Making an unexpected move for Paul was the Lightning’s latest salvo in what became an arms race in the Atlantic Division. The rival Florida Panthers added blue-line depth by getting Robert Hagg from Buffalo after already adding top-six forward Claude Giroux and top-four defenseman Ben Chiarot.
The Maple Leafs sent second-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third-rounder in 2024 to Seattle for Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell in the hopes of winning their first playoff series since 2004. Giordano, a 38-year-old from Toronto brings additional leadership to a core that has had nothing but postseason failures so far.
They also acquired a third-rounder in the draft this summer from Vancouver for defenseman Travis Dermott. The Canucks made room for Dermott by sending Travis Hamonic to Ottawa for a different 2022 third-round selection.
Toronto got a respected veteran in Giordano without giving up a first-round pick like Boston, Florida and Tampa Bay did in moves made in recent days.
“As the organization’s first captain, he made an immediate and lasting impact both on and off the ice,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “He is a consummate professional, and we appreciate his effort and leadership to help establish a culture here.”
Seattle also sent defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to Nashville for a 2022 second-round pick and forward Mason Appleton to Winnipeg for a 2023 fourth-round pick. The Predators and Jets are fighting with the Dallas Stars and others for the final playoff spots in the West.
Appleton played his first three seasons for the Jets before being selected by Seattle in the expansion draft.
Unsure about Braden Holtby's injury status, Dallas acquired goaltender Scott Wedgewood from Arizona for a conditional pick in the 2024 draft.
While he recently played his 1,000th NHL game, Giordano has dressed in only 23 playoff games in 16 NHL seasons. His 24th could be part of one of the most scrutinized series in recent history with the pressure again on the Maple Leafs to advance.
It could come against the back-to-back defending champion Lightning or the Panthers, who sent a sixth-round pick in the draft this summer to the Sabres for Hagg. Florida general manager Bill Zito called Hagg “a tireless competitor” who adds a physical element to the blue line.
With Aaron Ekblad injured and expected to miss at least two weeks, the Panthers could put their top defenseman on long-term injured reserve for the rest of the season and use the salary cap space to accumulate more talent.
Before getting Giordano, the Maple Leafs’ focus was on their goaltending, which has become a major problem and looks like their biggest impediment to an extended playoff run. Toronto signed Olympic gold medal-winning Finnish goaltender Harri Sateri and put struggling veteran Petr Mrazek on waivers.
Sateri, 32, signed a pro-rated $750,000 contract for the rest of the season. He needs to clear waivers before joining Toronto, so any other team around the league could claim him and mess with the Leafs’ latest plan to fix their goaltending woes.
Reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is now the top player available. There could be more than a dozen depth moves before the deadline Monday at 3 p.m. EDT.
Here’s a look at who else could be on the move:
It’s more a question of if Fleury will be traded than where because he has strong protection in his contract and the Blackhawks’ word that they will only move him if that’s his choice. It’s quite possible nothing materializes and he remains in Chicago the rest of the season.
The Washington Capitals in recent weeks asked around about multiple goaltenders, including Fleury. But after so many memorable playoff series against the Capitals while with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Fleury doesn’t seem keen on helping a former rival and potentially facing his old team.
After helping the Penguins win the Cup three times and backstopping the Vegas Golden Knights to the final in their inaugural season in 2018, maybe Fleury can be persuaded to help the Maple Leafs try for their first championship in 55 years.
It’s not normal for 23-year-old defensemen signed for three more seasons to be available this time of year, and this one is complicated by injury. But Chychrun is coming off a season in which he finished 10th in Norris Trophy voting with the Arizona Coyotes and would be a top-four if not top-pairing contributor for a contender interested in trying to take a few cracks at the Cup.
Based on the Bruins trading a first-round pick, two second-rounders and prospect Urho Vaakanainen to the Anaheim Ducks for Hampus Lindholm — whom they then signed for $52 million over eight years — the price for Chychrun could be even higher. But the Coyotes are still early in a full-scale, long-term rebuild, so they are motivated to stockpile future assets.
Speaking of Arizona being motivated to make trades, moving Kessel is a no-brainer. A two-time Cup champion with Fleury in Pittsburgh, the veteran winger has struggled to produce on one of the league’s worst teams, but he could certainly do more with better talent around him.
Kessel was almost a point-a-game player on the Penguins Cup runs in 2016 and 2017 and still has something left in the tank at 34.
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