Never in the history of hockey has selling felt and looked so good. After moving on from pending free agents Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle earlier in the week, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman did the seemingly impossible when he moved Valtteri Filppula to Philadelphia in advance of Wednesday's trade deadline. The full particulars of the trade were as follows:
To: Tampa Bay
2017 Fourth Round Pick
2017 Seventh Round Pick
With a pending cap crunch facing his club, Yzerman did what many were hoping he would (read: could) do: He got out from underneath an underperforming player with a sizeable contract and no-movement clause. Shipping Filppula to Philadelphia opens up $5M in cap space for the Lightning next season, and perhaps more importantly frees up another spot on their "protection" list for the upcoming Vegas expansion draft. That Yzerman was able to trade Filppula without having to retain salary, and without having to take money back, is nothing short of a miracle. This deal in a vacuum was a great one for the Lightning, but then things got better:
To: Tampa Bay
2018 Fourth Round Pick
With that, the net effect for Tampa is almost comically fantastic. Filppula's contract, which carries an additional year at $5M, was thought to be unmovable. Yzerman moved it, and essentially only had to give up a seventh round pick to do it. After the Brian Boyle trade earlier in the week, there was some thought that a second (!) round pick might be added to entice some opposing team to take on one of Tampa's big contracts. Nobody could have expected that it would only take a seventh.
The Filppula trade was essentially the exclamation point on an overwhelmingly positive 2017 trade deadline season for this team. Yzerman has firmly established the fact that he is willing to make tough decisions, even if it means "selling" from a roster that was thought of to be a cup contender at the start of the season. Every move that needed to be made before 3:00pm on March 1st was made, and the Filppula deal was just an added bonus.
Of particular note with regards to the team's three deadline deals is the fact that the team really didn't lose anything. Filppula wasn't bringing anything to the team that current players can't replace. Boyle, while effective, was still a fourth line center. And, Bishop? Well, Andrei Vasilevskiy has looked more than capable of holding down the fort to start his tenure as the team's number one guy. As @loserpoints pointed out on Twitter, there is nothing stopping this team from putting together a nice run to end the season, and potentially making the playoffs. It's not often that a seller can say that with even a shred of sincerity.
In short, the Lightning sold, sold, sold in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the trade deadline, but the roster really isn't any worse because of it, and the future looks a whole lot brighter. Call it a win for Mr. Yzerman.
As always, thanks for reading.