by PuckStopsHere on 03/06/09 at 04:04 AM ET
With the trade deadline passed we can take a look at the trades of the past year and start to make some assessments. One that is very clear is that the worst trade made was one made last summer. The Tampa Bay Lightning sent Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich to the San Jose Sharks for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a 2009 first round draft pick and a 2010 fourth round pick. This trade happened only months after Boyle had signed a six year $40 million contract to stay with the Lightning. The new owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie were doing their job as bad fantasy hockey GMs (except they had control of an NHL team). Several years earlier, Barrie and Dan Boyle had been teammates with the Florida Panthers. There was something Barrie saw then (or at least thought he saw) that proved Boyle was not a player worth keeping. The Lightning owners pressured Boyle into waiving his no trade clause and then made this deal. At this time, Jay Feaster was still the official Tampa Bay GM, but he was not involved in the deal. Tampa Bay’s new ownership was willing to do some crazy, unconventional things and this was an example.
Dan Boyle has been a huge success in San Jose. He is the fourth highest scoring defenceman in the NHL so far this season with 45 points. He appeared in the All Star Game. He should receive some consideration for the Norris Trophy (as best defenceman in the league), although I would not make him one of the award nominees at this point. Brad Lukowich has been a solid but unspectacular depth defenceman in San Jose as well. It is bad to give up that kind of talent in a trade. Potentially it could be okay for Tampa Bay if they got something significant in return.
The problem for Tampa Bay was not only that they made a very bad trade. The problem was that they kept making them. The assets obtained for Boyle were soon moved in other trades. The first round draft pick was traded later that summer to the Ottawa Senators. It was packaged with Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard to bring in Andrej Meszaros. Meszaros is not a bad defenceman, but he is no Dan Boyle. The price paid for him is similar to the price paid for Boyle. It seemed like Tampa realized they had a hole in their defence (caused in part by trading Boyle) and had to act to fill it. They would up paying a large price for a lesser player. Meszaros has 16 points so far this season, which makes him Tampa’s top scoring defenceman. He has had shoulder surgery and is not going to play again this season.
The trading did not end there. Matt Carle and a 2009 third round draft pick were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in early November in exchange for Steve Eminger, Steve Downie and a 2009 4th round pick. Carle was supposed to be a key asset obtained for Boyle, but the Lightning never gave him time to work out. Carle has had a solid season-. He has scored 18 points and plays over 20 minutes a game. He has been approximately as good as Meszaros, without the season ending injury. He is no Dan Boyle, but few defencemen are.
The return for Carle included Steve Downie. Downie is unquestionably talented. He was a Flyers first round draft pick in 2005. He is also troubled. He was recently given a 20 game suspension for striking an official in an AHL game with the Norfolk Admirals. This is the second 20 game suspension of his short professional hockey career (he had one last year as well). Downie may turn out to be a solid NHL player, but he has to work his way out of the AHL and stop getting these ridiculous suspensions.
The other part of the Carle trade was Steve Eminger. Eminger has 25 points so far this season. He was the top scorer on the Tampa Bay defence and arguably had been their top defenceman this year. Tampa Bay traded him in a deadline deal. He was traded to the Florida Panthers for Noah Welch and a 2009 third round draft choice. Welch was once considered a top NHL prospect. He is now 26 years old and has not become an NHL regular yet. He has 56 career NHL games played over four seasons with nine points scored. He is older than Eminger and far further from being a good NHL player.
All told, Tampa Bay has made several trades with the assets acquired for Dan Boyle. Each trade has probably brought back less than the Lightning parted with. The most significant asset remaining for Tampa Bay’s parting with one of the better defenceman this season is now a portion of Andrej Meszaros (the part that wasn’t paid for with Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard). Tampa Bay took a significant asset and in a series of bad moves wore it down to almost nothing. That is an example of what not to do when building a team. It is a horrible example of asset management.
The worst trade this season was Tampa Bay’s trading Dan Boyle to San Jose. That is true regardless of the remaining Tampa deals. Those Tampa deals make it that much worse. There is very little left to show for Boyle in the Tampa organization. There is no way that the deal could have worked out. The pieces that were obtained were moved in further deals before they had a chance to succeed. In a nutshell that is what is wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Oren Koules and Len Barrie have run the team like hyperactive children run fantasy hockey teams. They have no clear plan and are looking for that one big deal that will fix everything. The problem is no such deal ever exists. This desire to make trades forces the team to make worse and worse deals that push them further and further from contention. The panic and search for that big deal merely increases with the drop in the standings. The Dan Boyle trade is a case study in this. In Tampa Bay, there is no way the team will win as long as ownership stays on this course. Likely the team will remain a bottom feeder as long as the current ownership remains around. It will take a new ownership and a significant investment of time and hard work to right the ship.
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