Who Should the Lightning Target at Trade Deadline?

Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

With February nearing its end, NHL teams are focusing on how to improve their chances of making the playoffs entering the stretch run. The Tampa Bay Lightning are no exception, as they need a left-handed, puck-moving defenseman to replace the injured Mikhail Sergachev.

Some notable names that have been linked to the Lightning ahead of the 2024 Trade Deadline are Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Sean Walker, Ottawa Senators forward Vladimir Tarasenko, and Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin.

In his first season with the Flyers, Walker would give the Lightning an experienced top-four defenseman who could take some of the load off of Victor Hedman. He averages between 15 and 20 minutes per game, something Bolts general manager Julien Brisebois should covet given the inexperience on the back end. Adding Walker allows head coach Jon Cooper lots of options when it comes to setting his pairings. He could pair Walker with Hedman, Darren Raddysh with Erik Cernak, and either Nick Perbix or Calvin DeHaan with rookie Emil Lilleberg. Max Crozier should remain on the roster as an extra.

While the salary cap could prove to be an obstacle, Walker is only signed through the end of this season. Sergachev’s placement on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) gives the Lightning an extra $9.5 million to use.

The Lightning could give up a prospect such as Alex Barre-Boulet or Cole Koepke, along with a veteran defenseman like DeHaan or Haydn Fleury and a lower-round draft pick.

Another defenseman the Lightning should have on their radar is Hanifin. Selected fifth overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2015 NHL Draft, he was traded to the Flames in the 2018 offseason. A lefty shooting blueliner, Hanifin, has told Calgary he wants to move on, going as far as to publicly state that he desires to play for Tampa Bay.

Hanifin brings a lot of intangibles that would certainly help the Lightning. He’s a power play specialist who could fit well on the second unit in place of Sergachev. He’s also a minute muncher that can play anywhere on the left side and enjoys moving the puck. With the Bolts, he would be a perfect fit on the second pairing alongside Cernak.

Calgary doesn’t seem to want much in return either. The Lightning could give them Conor Sheary or DeHaan, a top prospect like Koepke or Gage Goncalves, and a future draft pick.

Finally, Tarasenko is a former first round pick who’s only signed for this season. Right now, he has 15 goals and 38 points on a Senators team that is looking to sell. He’d be a difficult player to land however, as the Lightning are low on draft picks, something Ottawa likely wants for a coveted scorer like Tarasenko.

Personally, I feel like the Lightning should pursue Hanifin. He’d be a perfect replacement for Sergachev this season, and he’s made it abundantly clear that he wants to play for this team. The Flames aren’t asking for much either, so Tampa Bay shouldn’t have to overpay like they did with Tanner Jeannot last season. The only potential obstacle would be re-signing him for the future. However, if Brisebois lets go of Austin Watson, Tyler Motte, Sheary, DeHaan, and Fleury, he might be able to sign Hanifin to a two-year deal worth $2 million and still re-sign captain Steven Stamkos.

Do the Lightning have what it takes to swing a trade? While unknown, their playoff hopes depend upon getting help for the postseason push.

Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

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