Bolts Bolster Blue Line by Going Young and Cheap
Young and cheap.
That was Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman’s mantra at the NHL trade deadline.
“We’re looking for young guys, and for guys whose contracts are appropriate,” Yzerman said Monday. “But we’re obviously trying to find good players, and good players that don’t make a lot of money. And that’s not an easy thing to do.”
Yzerman was successful in his cost-effective quest as he added defensemen to bolster his team’s struggling and injury-ridden blue line in three separate deals for Toronto’s Keith Aulie, Detroit’s Mike Commodore and Ottawa’s Brian Lee.
“I came into today not expecting to do a whole lot, but we’re pleased with the outcome of the afternoon,” Yzerman said.
Coveted by the Lightning, the 22-year-old Aulie was acquired in exchange for 2009 first-round selection Carter Ashton. The 6-foot-6, 217-pounder split the season between the Leafs and their American League affiliate the Toronto Marlies.
Aulie only registered two assists and a minus-2 rating in his 17 appearances with the Leafs this season, but he certainly knows how to throw around his brawny frame. He’s totaled 41 hits and 28 blocked shots. He also is familar to coach Guy Boucher. Aulie was a member of Canada’s 2009 World Juniors Gold Medal-winning team and Boucher was an assistant coach.
NHL organizations crave size on defense. It is particularly vital in the Southeast Division, which boasts potent forwards in Eric Staal, Alex Ovechkin, Kris Versteeg, among others.
Aulie will be joined by Lee in neutralizing top-end opposing forwards.
To obtain the 24-year-old Lee, Matt Gilroy was sent to Ottawa. The 6’3, 206-pound Lee was a first-rounder in 2005, but struggled to remain in Ottawa. He split most of his career between the Senators and their AHL affiliate in Binghamton. Lee registered one goal and seven assists in 35 games as a Senator this season.
“Bryan Murray called me this afternoon and we had not had any previous discussions. He asked about Matt and we liked Brian Lee,” Yzerman said. “We think he’s still a prospect. He’s a young guy with some potential. I think the trade was a good fit for both clubs.”
The final backliner to be obtained came without much sacrifice by Yzerman as he landed Commodore from Detroit for a conditional seventh-round pick in June’s entry draft. If the 32-year-old Commodore plays more than 15 regular-season games and the Lightning make the playoffs, the Red Wings will acquire the draft pick.
The 11-year veteran brings Stanley Cup experience to Tampa Bay. Commodore was a member of the 2004 Flames squad that lost in the Cup Final to Tampa Bay, and was key to the 2006 Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes’ defense corps.
The well-traveled Commodore has posted 23 goals, 83 assists and a minus-7 rating in his career. Commodore signed a one-year deal worth $1 million with Detroit last summer, but failed to land a regular job in the lineup. He registered two assists and a plus-3 rating in just 17 games as a Red Wing.