The Tampa Bay Lightning are likely to be quiet ahead of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline on April 12, and a big reason for their expected inactivity is the moves they made before the deadline last season.
Nearly 13 months after acquiring forwards Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman in separate trades before the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline for two first-round draft picks and a prospect who was a first-round pick, the defending Stanley Cup champions are still reaping the benefits.
“When the trades happened last year, there was a lot to be made of did we give too much up?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Clearly, we maybe didn’t give up enough if you really think about it for how much positive impact those guys have had on our team.”
Coleman and Goodrow helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup last season, with the former scoring 13 points (five goals, eight assists) and the latter six (one goal, five assists) in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games. They were each key components of a penalty kill that had a success rate of 86.1 percent.
They make up two-thirds of the Lightning’s third line this season with Yanni Gourde, again playing big roles at even strength and on the penalty kill for Tampa Bay, which is tied with the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche with 54 points, second-most in the NHL behind the Florida Panthers, who have 56.
Coleman has scored 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 33 games, including an overtime goal against the Detroit Red Wings on March 9. Goodrow has scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 34 games.
“When you have selfless players, and both those guys are selfless, it goes a long way in galvanizing the team as a group,” Cooper said. “I think that is part of what’s gone probably unnoticed, the behind-the-scenes impact they’ve had even on our veterans. That’s why those two trades were just massive for us in our success we’ve had since they were made.”
Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois cited the trades for Goodrow from the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 16, 2020 and Coleman from the New Jersey Devils eight days later as reasons why the Lightning can confidently stand pat before this season’s deadline.
They each had a year remaining on their contracts when they were acquired and can become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
Goodrow said having term on his contract allowed him to fully immerse himself into the team and the community.
“When you get traded and you’re only there for that little bit of a season and a playoff run, you can get close to your teammates but I don’t think it’s the same as knowing you’re going to be coming back, having a full season, a full year ahead of you after that playoff run,” Goodrow said. “It just allows you to get close to guys, get really comfortable in the area and just be able to fully invest yourself into the process and the team structure.”
Coleman also talked about investment, including from the family side.
“For sure, being able to explain that you’re hopefully staying in the same place for a year and a half here was a good sell to the wife,” Coleman said. “From the hockey side of things, some guys when they’re a rental they get to the new team and they catch fire, and in that circumstance you’re hoping you get out and get a new deal.
“In my circumstance, I was glad. I had a slow start when I got here, a lot going on with the personal life, and in hockey you have to learn new systems, new team. I ended up having a long break and a new training camp that most guys wouldn’t have. It helped me knowing I had another year.”
When the NHL paused last season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, it was a benefit to Coleman and Goodrow.
“It gave those guys a chance to sit back, reflect and become part of our team,” Cooper said.
They got to know their new teammates through Zoom calls, and FaceTime and phone conversations. They returned, as Coleman mentioned, to a full two-week training camp, when it felt like everybody was starting from scratch, putting everyone on an even ice surface.
They went to Toronto for the playoffs, into the bubble the NHL created, and began building the bonds that are still bearing fruit today.
“The bubble felt like two years, but you’re with the boys every day, all day long, just a big brotherhood in there and obviously you get to really know the guys and build some good friendships,” Coleman said. “Our bond was strong and it’s a big reason why our team was as successful as we were. We were a close group and really cared for each other.”
Cooper said Coleman and Goodrow are now key parts of the Lightning’s leadership group that features captain Steven Stamkos, and alternate captains Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn.
“Great guys that fit in right away when they came to us,” Hedman said. “They were a huge impact for why we went all the way last year and continue doing well this year as well. Just big, great character guys both on and off the ice.”