Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is known as one of the hardest-working GMs in the NHL, and in the wee hours of Monday morning, he showed why by pulling off two separate trades that address both his team's present and future: the first sent blueliner Radko Gudas and Tampa's first-and-third-round draft picks in 2015 to Philadelphia for veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn; the second moved out young right winger Brett Connolly to Boston for the Bruins' second-round draft picks in both 2015 and 2016.
The Coburn/Gudas deal has the more immediate impact on the Bolts, as the 30-year-old Coburn comes in and adds depth, edge and post-season experience to a defense corps that already was formidable thanks to players such as Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Matt Carle. Coburn's average ice time of 20:14 in 39 games for Philly this year is down more than two minutes from last season (22:27), but he's a big body (6-foot-5) and he's got enough snarl left in him to make up for the loss of Gudas, who had been lost for what was presumed to be the rest of the season after knee surgery in January. Coburn also is signed through next season at a manageable $4.5 million salary cap hit, and his 72 games of playoff experience are going to help Tampa once the regular-season ends.
The 24-year-old Gudas was a fan favorite with the team that drafted him 66th overall in 2010, but the physical d-man is going to be a perfect fit with the aura and approach of the legendarily hands-on Flyers. But unless there's a playoff appearance and deep run for Philly this season, their fans are going to have to wait until the 2015-16 campaign to see him in action.
Yzerman surrendered two high draft picks to land Coburn, but acquired de facto replacements for them in the other transaction involving the 22-year-old Connolly. The Campbell River, B.C. native was the Bolts' first-round pick (sixth overall) in 2010, but he's struggled to blossom at the NHL level and was averaging just 11:56 this season. Connolly will give the greying Bruins some much-needed youth and upside, and the 12 goals he has this year indicate he can help them with their scoring issues as well. And with so many great young players in the Lightning organization, Yzerman could afford to part ways with Connolly, especially if doing so helped him on the drafting and development front in the years to come.
Yzerman has built the Lightning into a contender relatively quickly in his four-plus seasons with the franchise, and Monday's trades solidify his group as one on which to keep an eye this year.