Atlantic

Tampa Bay Lightning Get Better With Braydon Coburn

Tampa Bay Lightning Get Better With Braydon Coburn
Franklin Steele

Do NHL General Managers ever sleep? Pencil Steve Yzerman and Ron Hextall in as night owls; the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers completed a trade pretty big trade.

This is a strong return for the Flyers. Braydon Coburn was the best defenseman on the team, but Philadelphia’s blue line has been in dire need of an overhaul. A great indicator of overall team success is the five-on-five goals for/against ratio, and the Flyers are 21st in that department this season. They also have the 28th-ranked penalty kill and are 18th in terms of average shots against allowed.

That all doesn’t fall on Coburn—this is a team that simply needed to shake things up on defense. Hextall already traded veteran defenseman Kimmo Timmonen to the Chicago Blackhawks ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring a second-round selection for the pending UFA.

The return for Coburn is more substantial and could pay dividends in the coming seasons. Tampa’s 2015 first-round selection will almost certainly be in the back-third of the round, but most draft analysts consider this group of prospects to be deep and talented. If Hextall was ever going to go all-in and attack a draft, this is the year to do it.

Adding a third-rounder is icing on the cake, and defenseman Radko Gudas is going to be a fan favorite almost instantly in Philadelphia. He’s the mean kind of defender that the team has been missing since Chris Pronger last laced up the skates. The 24-year-old doesn’t have the same skill level as the former Flyers captain, but he’s not fun to play against either.

Gudas is the kind of blueliner that can set the tone for an entire group. If Hextall is looking to piece together a more physical group, he added a good piece in the 2014 Olympian. The Flyers also cleared a bit of cap space with this deal, and that’s something that the organization has needed to do all year long. Philly is saddled with terrible contracts that are attached to aging players, so getting a little bit of flexibility is a plus.

Philadelphia also has a handful of defensive prospects that are ready for action at the NHL level. Shayne Gostisbehere has received a few cups of coffee with the Flyers, and is ready for full-time duty with the team. Many scouts are quite high on the 21-year-old, and believe him to be a top-four defenseman in the making.

2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin could also push for a roster spot in training camp, and Robert Hagg is panning out even better than expected in the AHL. Hextall has more or less restructured his entire defensive group in just a few days, opening up spots for younger and more talented players on the back end.

This is the second time the Lightning have peeled a defenseman away from the Flyers. Back in 2008 it was Matt Carle switching sides. Now Coburn will join him in the Sunshine State.

Since the Flyers are weaker in their own zone and Coburn always plays big minutes, there’s a lot of negative perception around the player. He averages more than 20 minutes a night, but frequently pushes the 25-minute mark. Defensemen that can eat minutes like that are valuable, and the Lightning now have a handful of blueliners that are capable of eating tons of ice time on a nightly basis.

Carle is still injured and is a few weeks away according to Joe Smith of The Tampa Bay Times, but the top-six should look something like this once he returns:

Victor Hedman Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison Andrej Sustr

That would leave Mark Barberio and Nikita Nesterov on the outside looking in, giving the “Bolts” a tremendous amount of defensive depth heading into the playoffs. Tampa is already one of the best goals for/against teams in the NHL, trailing only the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers in that regard. This is a case of the rich getting richer, as Coburn will have more support than he ever did while wearing a Flyers sweater.

Yzerman and Co. paid a high price to improve an already stellar top-four, and he deserves credit for being proactive while dealing with a blue line that has been depleted at various times this season. Hextall did well in this swap too, creating roster space for younger players, a bit of cap room to work with and adding two picks in what is expected to be a deep draft.

Want to weigh in on this trade? Feel free to chime in down in the comments and we’ll interact with you in real time.

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Franklin Steele
@FranklinSteele

Franklin Steele has been watching and playing hockey since the age of six. He's written for a variety of NHL websites around the web, and now is the director of content and growth for TodaysSlapshot.com. A lot of folks say they are living the dream sarcastically. He is not among them. Feel free to email him or Tweet at him with any questions, comments or concerns.

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