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Lightning don’t wait for trade deadline, acquire Coleman from Devils

Wayne Masut | The Scrum Sports

A year ago at the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Lightning stood pat. General manager Julien BriseBois decided not to make a move since his team was in the process of running away with the Presidents’ Trophy and tying the NHL record for wins in a season. With the Lightning in a tight race with the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, BriseBois decided to give his roster a boost.

Although the trade deadline falls on February 24, BriseBois got ahead of the action, acquiring forward Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward prospect Nolan Foote and a first round pick in the 2020 draft. TSN’s Darren Dreger originally reported the deal.

Remember, the Lightning owned two first round picks. In addition to their own, they also held the Vancouver Canucks’ first rounder, which they picked up in the J.T. Miller trade last summer. A condition of that pick was that if the Canucks missed the playoffs in 2020, the pick would transfer to 2021. Despite the pick being on the move to the Devils, the same conditions are attached to the pick.

What Coleman brings to the Lightning

The 28-year-old Coleman, who is 5’11” and 180 pounds, was in his fourth season with the Devils before this trade, notching 21 goals and 31 points in 57 games this season. This is his second straight season with 20-plus goals, as he completed last season with 22 tallies and 36 points in 78 games played.

While not a huge player in the same vein as the Lightning’s Pat Maroon, Coleman can hold his own from a physical standpoint, adding a little more size to the Bolts’ forward group. He can easily fit into Tampa Bay’s bottom six forwards with the ability to move up the lineup if needed. In addition to that, he’s also a capable penalty killer.

From an analytics standpoint, Coleman was one of the best players on the Devils in terms of puck possession metrics. On a New Jersey team that’s been one of the league’s bottom-feeders this season, Coleman’s 5-on-5 Corsi and Fenwick percentages (per Natural Stat Trick) at 5-on-5 led the Devils among players who qualified, while his expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 was also above 50%, which is impressive on a struggling team. New Jersey also produced over 52% of the high-danger chances at 5-on-5 while he was on the ice, all while starting only 38% of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone. The best part? He still has a year left on his deal after this season at a bargain price of $1.8 million a year.

Nolan Foote heads the other way

The Lightning are clearly in win-now mode, and this move is a perfect illustration of that. The Bolts aren’t giving up anyone off their main roster in adding Coleman. However, when the trade came to light, it caught some by surprise that Nolan Foote would be going the other way. Tampa Bay chose Foote in the first round of last summer’s draft, and had an impressive prospect camp after being drafted. Possessing a blistering shot and underrated setup ability, Foote’s ceiling appears to be as a second-line forward in the NHL.

What the deal means for New Jersey

Approaching the trade deadline, the Devils might not be done. In fact, the Devils were busy before sending Coleman to Tampa. Hours before this trade, New Jersey dealt their captain, Andy Greene, to the New York Islanders for defensive prospect David Quenneville and a 2021 second round pick. The addition of Foote to their prospect pool will potentially add a nice running mate for either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier down the line.

Breaking down what it means for Tampa Bay

When looking at this from Tampa Bay’s perspective, I have a hard time not liking the move. Dealing Foote less than a year after drafting could hurt down the road. But for the Bolts, this is all about winning the Stanley Cup right now, as their window is still open. Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers remains the biggest potential trade target on the market. While Kreider would be a great fit in Tampa, several teams are reported to be in the running for his services. As a result, the price will probably only go up.

For instance if the Lightning made a deal for Kreider, his $4.625 million cap hit means salary would likely go back the other way. With the number of no-trade clauses on this team, that’s a tough act to pull off.

Why Coleman is a good addition for the Lightning

First off, his $1.8 million salary cap hit is an absolute bargain of a contract. In addition, Coleman is still under contract for one more year and doesn’t hit the open market until the summer of 2021. That fits the Lightning’s M.O. of not going after pure rentals at the trade deadline over the last few years. On top of that, the Bolts’ salary cap situation is going to be as tight as its ever been this summer.

With Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, and Carter Verhaeghe seeking new deals as RFA’s this summer, salary cap space is at a premium. There could be a trade or two among the forwards this summer, and having a cheap deal like Coleman’s will help. In addition, Coleman should be able to slide up the lineup in the event of offseason changes among the forward corps.

While the loss of Foote could hurt in the future, the Lightning did what most contending teams look to do approaching the trade deadline: add to their roster with the intention of bolstering it for a Stanley Cup run. At some point, you just have to push your chips to the center of the table and make a move.

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