Simon Gagne (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sure has had a very busy start to his first off-season as a general manager, if you can call it an off-season which it certainly hasn’t been. Yzerman continues to re-shape the face of the team and the organization and I must admit, for someone that is new to this position, he’s working it like a veteran.
On Monday mid-afternoon Yzerman worked his magic and acquired veteran left winger Simon Gagne from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Matt Walker and a 4th round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
In acquiring Gagne, Yzerman addressed a couple of needs in the deal… first and foremost the Bolts get a Top 6/Top 2 line winger that can still put the puck in the net score (unlike that of Alex Tangney), play a defensive role when needed, plays a very good all-around game and adds another dimension to Guy Boucher’s coaching style – which is speed and Gagne certainly brings that to the table.
More though is the fact that Yzerman was able to shed another long-term contract which enables additional cap monies for re-signing players now, with the first being a long-term deal for Steven Stamkos and in the coming years (contract extension for Victor Hedman following the 2011-12 season).
Although Gagne’s contract calls for a salary of $5.25 million with the cap hit at the same amount, Yzerman was able to unload close to $24 million in remaining salary with the trades of Meszaros and Walker giving the Bolts close to $5.8 million in additional cap space. The first trade [Meszaros] allowed for the long-term deal for St. Louis… According to CapGeek.com, the Bolts have a cap space of $16,020,584 million… enough to lock up Stamkos and add more players via a trade or free agency if needed.
Despite the fact that Gagne’s health has been a question mark, the decision to acquire Gagne wasn’t a tough sell for Yzerman and he did his due diligence.
Via a conference call with the media, Yzerman was asked about how it came down to adding Gagne and he said that he spoke with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren at the draft in Los Angeles. “We discussed as to what both clubs were trying to do and that’s when I inquired about Simon [Gagne] and talked about Andrej [Meszaros] as well.”
“Ultimately we did the draft picks for Meszaros with me trying to free up future monies and to get out of a couple of long term commitments so that it would allow me to do a couple of other things moving forward. That led us to this trade,” said Yzerman.
Yzerman said he is fully aware of every injury and health issues that has plagued Gagne over the last few years – stating that some of those injuries are one’s that any player can sustain. “Paul [Holmgren] gave us all of Gagne’s medical information.”
“Obviously it’s a concern [health issues]. If it was a multi-year contract I would have to evaluate the situation much closer, but we felt with Simon going into the final year of his contract, we obviously have a very motivated player and I think it was worth doing it.”
“He recovered from the hernia surgery he had early last season. He had a broken toe in the playoffs, which could happen to anybody. I don’t see that as being an issue moving forward. I’m comfortable that he’s healthy now and will start the season healthy.”
Yzerman is very familiar with Gagne as the two have played against each other and together as teammates on Canada’s 2002 Olympic team that won the Gold Medal in Salt Lake City. Yzerman said knowing Gagne as a teammate made him more comfortable with the deal.
“I guess I would say in completing this trade or in anything you do, any move you make, anytime you’re acquiring a player or moving a player, the more information you have on the person the more comfortable you are with your decision,” he said. “Getting a chance to play with Simon then and having him at the Olympic camp this year as well, you learn the type of person he is and where he would fit in. Any player I bring into the organization I’m hoping has good character and will fit well into a locker room. I think I know Simon a little bit as a person, obviously I know him as a hockey player and so playing together in ’02 just helped me get a little more information when I made this decision.”
Gagne was a 30 goal scorer four times in his 10-year career with the Flyers and in joining the Lightning he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. “Once the Flyers approached me about waiving my no-trade clause, I immediately began focusing on the Lightning. Tampa Bay was the team that was really interesting to myself and that’s when we [Gagne’s agent] started talking to Steve Yzerman and we were able to make something happen with them. I was willing to waive my no-trade clause only for Tampa Bay, not for other teams,” said Gagne.
“Its exciting fans, it’s exciting for the coach, it’s exciting for the organization, for the players and I think Steve [Yzerman] has done an outstanding job up to now and done everything right in terms of what we need,” Boucher said.
“We certainly needed a guy for our top six forwards and we’ve got one. He’s always been a solid player at both sides of the ice and is one of those guys who can be a game-breaker. But what I like is, I’m a real believer in speed and he brings a lot of that.”
Just speculation on my part, but there is a very good possibility that Gagne and St. Louis will skate alongside Vincent Lecavalier, with Stamkos centering a line with Ryan Malone and hopefully Steve Downie (remains unsigned as of this writing).
“I’m very excited right now,” Gagne said. “I’m looking at this opportunity as a new challenge and a new start. Tampa Bay was a team I was more than willing to waive my no move clause for. I really like the direction the team is headed in with a solid owner, Steve Yzerman as GM and Coach Boucher. I’m really looking forward to playing with guys like Lecavalier, Stamkos and St. Louis. I’m excited to be a member of the Lightning and I’m looking forward to starting next season in Tampa Bay.”
In the few months since Yzerman has become the Bolts GM the team, at least on paper seems to be much more competitive than before, especially with the numerous deals that have been made.
Yzerman during the teleconference addressed that saying, he is pleased with the off-season moves so far and that the Lightning “is improving” following the contract extension of St. Louis and the additions of goaltender Dan Ellis and defensemen Pavel Kubina and Brett Clark.
“Ellis is comparable in goal but does improve our position and Kubina and Clark make the defense better and bigger. Kubina is a good replacement for Meszaros and that both players can move the puck which certainly improves the club.”
When asked if the Lightning would continue to fill the roster through free agency or by using prospects within the team’s own system, Yzerman stated that decision is one that will be looked at by his staff and was not yet determined.
“I still think we need to add NHL forwards on short-term or two-year deals. Whether that comes from a trade, free agency or from within the organization remains to be seen, our options are still open.”
• Height: 6′ 0″
• Weight: 195
• Shoots: Left
• Born: Feb 29, 1980
• Birthplace: Ste. Foy, QC, Canada
• Drafted: PHI / 1st (22nd overall) / 1998
• Has recorded 259 goals, 265 assists and 524 points in 664 career games.
• Holds a career plus 143 rating.
• Has appeared in 90 career Stanley Cup playoff games, registering 32 goals, 15 assists and 47 points.
• Is a two-time 40-goal scorer and has also put together four seasons with at least 30 goals and seven seasons with 20 goals or more.
• Prior to joining the NHL, he led all skaters during the 1998-99 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season in points (120), assists (70) and plus-minus rating (+53), while also tying for the team lead in goals (50).
For more info: Tampa Bay Lightning, CapGeek.com
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Althea Pashman’s other writing:
Tampa Bay Rays
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