TAMPA — Without a doubt, the cost of this Lightning trade was outrageous.
However, for general manager Julien BriseBois, the price to pay for doing nothing was much higher.
It’s the math. This is the dividing line between reckless and daring. BriseBois knew he was giving up more than he was getting on paper, but he was willing to pay the extra freight that comes with chasing a Stanley Cup.
So he made a bold, daring and, most likely, insane craft. He gave up defenseman Cal Foote and five draft picks to acquire Tanner Jeannot, an undrafted forward with five goals in 56 games with Nashville this season.
BriseBois may be the only NHL general manager who reportedly made the trade this week, but that’s because he’s the only general manager with a generational roster and an obligation to run as many championships as possible before the Tampa Bay window won’t slam.
Even so, the easiest path would have been to do nothing. If he had said the cost was too high, the salary cap was too tight, the draw closet had already been bare, no one would have argued with him.
Instead, he bet on his guys. He bet Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point and the rest of the Lightning core still have another year, or two, or three of championship hockey with the right pieces around them.
“My job, my responsibility as a gatekeeper to this group, is to take risks at times to maximize our potential return on this era,” BriseBois said Monday morning. “And that’s what I did (Sunday) night. We take a risk. A calculated risk.
“The reality at the trade deadline is that you’re going to have to pay too much. That’s how you get the player.
The official tally – third, fourth and fifth round picks in 2023, a second round in 2024 and a first round in 2025 – looks like a royal ransom for a player who lacks royal pedigree.
And that means the Lightning have now handed out seven first-round picks and four second-round picks over the past five years. Not to mention that they traded the players they drafted in the first round in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019, including Foote. That’s more than a decade of top hopes being given up in the name of victory today.
And you know what? It was worth it, so far.
The Lightning have won 84 postseason games since 2015. The closest franchise has won 45. That’s the kind of dominance books and documentaries are made of. Tampa Bay has made six conference finals, four cup finals and won it all twice.
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So the idea of BriseBois looking at the 2023 version of the Lightning and seeing a path to another championship should be exhilarating, regardless of the future cost.
The Lightning changed their fortunes forever when they began investing in players such as Pat Maroon, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. Players who might not challenge for year-end awards, but made the Lightning a mean, desperate team come playoff time.
And that’s what BriseBois sees in Jeannot.
Put him on the third line with Nick Paul and Ross Colton, and the Lightning can have a squad that could approach the grit the Yanni Gourde, Coleman and Goodrow line once had.
The Lightning don’t need Jeannot to score. They’ve had enough of that. He’s here to stop the best lines of playoff opponents by any means necessary.
“It is difficult to play against him. He plays with rhythm, finishes checks often and hard. He can defend. He handles the puck well, he brings his teammates into the fight,” BriseBois said. “By all accounts, he’s an excellent all-around teammate. He’s the kind of player who helps you win when the going gets tough.
The flip side of that argument is that the Lightning may already be nearing the end of their reign. They barely outlasted Toronto in the first round last season, and it wouldn’t be a shock if they were knocked out by the Maple Leafs in the first round this year.
If that happens, a trade that looked sketchy in February will look downright atrocious in May.
That’s what makes this deal so interesting. This is not a simple player-to-player exchange. It’s a statement. It’s a statement. It’s a way for BriseBois to show the players in the locker room that he supports them.
Faced with a challenge, he lowers his gloves.
He picks a fight with common sense and conventional wisdom. In his tailored suit and measured facade, BriseBois fights for the Lightning in the fiercest way a general manager can.
With his reputation.
And with the future of the franchise.
Jean Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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