BUFFALO, NY — Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois called himself this week the steward of the franchise’s rare assembly of talent, charged with taking the risks necessary to ensure the team gets the most out of it. of his championship window. Draft pick stocks can’t win the Stanley Cup this season, so immediate pursuit takes priority.
Now, after one of the busiest trade seasons in the NHL has come and gone with the Lightning forced to be primarily a spotter, BriseBois is doubling down on the fact that this year’s team has enough gas in the tank to a fourth straight run to the Cup final.
He picked up reinforcements. Forwards Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont were the Lightning’s top targets given the team’s lack of salary cap space and business assets, BriseBois said, and the Lightning acquired both, though Jeannot cost five draft picks in Tampa Bay.
If history is any indicator, these moves will likely play out, much like those of Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel, and those of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow did before that.
But they pale in comparison to the splashy moves of some of the Lightning’s potential playoff opponents in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re focused on our team,” BriseBois said Friday after the Lightning had a quiet deadline day, making no final moves before the 3 p.m. deadline. “We try to build the best possible iteration of our team, and I guess my counterparts try to do the same with their respective clubs.
“We knew how to enter what our ceiling space was; we knew on entering what our capital project was. We knew what our roster composition was and where we felt we could help the group be a tougher team to knock out come playoff time.
Jeannot and Eyssimont should help the Lightning be harder to take down, BriseBois said. He hopes that Jeannot, Ross Colton and Paul can form a third line that will cause crises in opponents like the Yanni Gourde line has already done. Eyssimont’s bread and butter is forechecking, and he can add speed to the back six. The Lightning like the positive side he presents despite this being his third save in less than two months.
BriseBois said he’s okay with the Lightning defensemen, though Tampa Bay has struggled to defend lately, allowing four or more goals in four of the past five games. The Lightning moved right-handed defenseman Cal Foote in the Jeannot trade, but BriseBois said AHL Syracuse right-handed defensemen Darren Raddysh and Philippe Myers are suitable additions.
The Lightning created cap space in the Eyssimont trade when San Jose took Vladislav Namestnikov and half his salary, so they have room for recalls if they need depth.
“So it’s not a concern for me,” BriseBois said of the defenders. “I’m going to put our body D against anybody else. We’re up there with some of the best D bodies in the league.
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Although he’s tied to Anaheim right-hander John Klingberg, who was sent to Minnesota just before the deadline, BriseBois said after acquiring Jeannot and Eyssimont, he expects a quiet deadline.
“We didn’t have any particular targets before (Friday),” BriseBois said. “Once (the Eyssimont swap) was over, even though we were on the lookout for opportunities, we had nothing to do (Friday) that we thought we were going to take advantage of.”
The Lightning would have struggled to make a hit move comparable to those in their conference competition. They’re in line for a first-round rematch with the Maple Leafs, who acquired forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Lafferty while revamping their defense. A Bruins team the Lightning could face in the second round added forward Tyler Bertuzzi and defenseman Dmitry Orlov. Metropolitan Division teams Rangers and Devils made flashy moves, acquiring Patrick Kane and Timo Meier respectively.
But BriseBois expressed confidence in his group, believing the Lightning will come out of their funk and be at their best early in the playoffs. The Lightning are 1-2-2 in their last five games, with their struggles characterized by sloppy play at the end.
“It’s going to happen over the course of a season,” BriseBois said. “It’s maybe a little human, even if we don’t want to admit it, that we have a little bit of a margin when it comes to getting a playoff spot. We play against teams that are often fighting for their lives in the playoffs already at this point. And we haven’t necessarily matched the level of urgency of our opponents.
“And I have every confidence in the world in our players and our coaching staff that this will be resolved in the not too distant future.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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