The Tampa Bay Lightning trade deadline will be interesting to watch this season. Over the last several seasons, they’ve been active with deals. It started with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. More recently, it has been Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont. This season, there is a question of what the Lightning should do; buy or sell? Here at Last Word, Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta will start a series where they look at some potential trades. Let’s say they buy, who do they get? What do they give up? Today, we look at several under-the-radar, obscure forward targets the Lightning could get for a low price.
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Under-the-Radar Forward Targets
When it comes to the deadline, for teams that are cap-strapped, sometimes it comes down to the margins. What can be a low-cost (in more ways than one) add, while owning the potential to provide more value than expected? That’s where we take a dive into the proverbial clearance section of deadline offers. Specifically, what forwards are on the shelves for an affordable price for any team who may be looking their way?
Narrowing it down to basement-dwelling teams, we at Last Word took a list of about 15 forwards and narrowed it down to six. The players are, in no particular order, Joey Anderson, Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, Brock McGinn, Trey Fix-Wolansky, and Max Jones. Here, we will quickly break down their seasons with a film review and a check-up on their production. For now, let’s focus on the first three.
Joey Anderson, Chicago Blackhawks
Anderson has been around. Many may remember his name from his Leafs days. Starting off, he was a third-round pick of the New Jersey Devils. He played two NCAA seasons after getting picked in the 2016 draft, scoring 64 points in 75 games. Then, he split his first pro season between the AHL and NHL. Since then, he has played for three different NHL and AHL teams since that 2018-19 season. In total, he has played 120 NHL games with 30 points and 179 AHL games with 139 points. So, why would the Lightning be interested?
This season, he has played 24 NHL games with eight points. He’s played an additional 14 AHL games with 16 points. Anderson isn’t necessarily a stand-out on the film, but there were some interesting notes. For one, he’s a good forechecker. He’s smart with his stick and times his stick checks well to create problems on the attack. But the three single-most important things: the Lightning have struggled in Last Word’s tracking project over the last three games with rush shots and cycle shots, as well as centre-lane passes. Anderson creates out of the cycle often, popping open in the slot after dropping a pass off along the boards for one-timers. He also does an excellent job centring passes from below the goal-line. With his forechecking and ability in the cycle, he could be a bargain bin find in the ilk of Eyssimont.
Emil Bemstrom, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bemstrom, a former fourth-round pick back in 2017 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, has not been to as many new cities as Anderson. Instead, he started his career in the 2019-20 season and scored 20 points (10 goals and assists) in 56 games. Overall in his career, he has played 202 NHL games over parts of 5 seasons, scoring 31 goals and 38 assists for 69 points. This season, he has produced 11 points in 30 NHL games. He’s played an additional eight AHL games, scoring 10 goals and 14 total points.
Watching the film, the big first takeaway is his forechecking. Bemstrom is not an overly physical player (0.69 hits per game in his career) but he comes in on the forecheck hard. His 6’0” and 194 pound frame looks bigger than it is when he closes in on an opposing defender looking to break-out. But perhaps the best part is Bemstrom’s untapped offensive potential. Of his five goals, four were traditional one-timers and one was a one-touch shot off a rebound. Of those goals, two were bombs from the left-circle, and one was a snipe from the low slot. As for his assists, he generated a lot of issues for opponents on the forecheck and had several centre lane passes. An element that the Tampa Bay Lightning currently need more impact in.
Liam Foudy, Nashville Predators
This season, Foudy has played 13 games, including 12 with his new team in the Predators. His other game came with the team that drafted him 18th overall in 2018, the Blue Jackets. With Columbus, Foudy started in the 2019-20 season and played parts of five seasons with them. In total, he scored 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 90 NHL games with Columbus. Since joining Nashville, he has scored three points (all assists) this season. He has also played an additional 14 AHL games, scoring 10 points (six goals and four assists).
Foudy is an interesting player. Out of the three forwards here, he is the fastest. However, he is also 6’2” and 187 pounds. That means he is taller than Bemstrom and not much lighter. Same with Anderson, who is 6’0” and 207 pounds. So despite being noticeably faster, he isn’t much smaller. Regardless, he is a smart forechecker, while being a bit less aggressive. Whereas Bemstrom attacks and forces turnovers off chip-and-chase plays, Foudy is more focused at gaining the zone with control and setting up plays from there. Two of his three assists came off the rush, with one being a cross-ice pass and one being a drop pass into space. His third assist was a centring pass. Again, an area the Lightning need better from their players. In contrast, he is the forward that is not as established as the other two. It likely won’t be too expensive to get the 25-year-old, but how much could he really bolster the depth?
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Best (Cheap) Option
For us here at Last Word, Bemstrom stands out the most as a Lightning acquisition. His heavy approach to the forecheck fits right in, while his dump-and-chase style would be easily implemented into Jon Cooper’s system. Additionally, some of that untapped offensive potential there could be very interesting. The Lightning are likely looking for a top-six option, or someone who can at least slide into the top-six. Bemstrom looks like the type that could slide right onto the second line with Anthony Cirelli and Brandon Hagel, or Steven Stamkos. Or, he could get thrown on the third line and form a solid third line alongside a healthy Jeannot, Tyler Motte or Eyssimont.
Meanwhile, it feels as though Liam Foudy has the most upside. He can score goals well, but it hasn’t translated to the NHL…yet. He has flashed playmaking skills, but it hasn’t been consistent… yet. Foudy brings speed, smart forechecking, and some offensive potential, which checks the boxes off of what the Lightning look for. Perhaps they want to take a swing here for an affordable cost?
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: In Or Out On These Low-Cost Swings
With new-found cap space, with Mikhail Sergachev likely headed to Long-Term Injured Reserve, it feels likely they want to make a more solid acquisition. However, if they want to make multiple deals, going with one strong swing and one cheaper swing, one of these aforementioned players could appeal. Of the three looked at here, Bemstrom feels like the safest one to plug into the lineup and fit in. Foudy and Anderson feel like they have less sturdy floors, and may not bring enough to the table at this point.
Raw NHL stats and per game stats via Hockey-Reference
Raw AHL stats via Elite Prospects
Lightning tracked stats via Last Word (Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta)
Main Photo: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports