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Rumor Roundup: Lightning, Blues targeting a top-four defender before deadline

Lyle Richardson
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Rumor Roundup: Lightning, Blues targeting a top-four defender before deadline

Steve Yzerman. Author: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

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Rumor Roundup: Lightning, Blues targeting a top-four defender before deadline

Lyle Richardson
By:

The struggling Lightning are looking to improve their blueline as they look to get back in the playoff hunt, while the Blues seek long-term help on their backend. Meanwhile, trade speculation about Bruins winger Ryan Spooner has quieted in recent days.

On Tuesday, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning could be in the market for a top-four defenseman between now and the March 1 trade deadline. While the Lightning could seek a rental player, LeBrun said the Blues could prefer adding a blueliner who could be part of their roster beyond this season. 

The Lightning and Blues  are up against the $73-million salary-cap ceiling. Of the two clubs, the Lightning could have the easier time addressing their needs.

With Steven Stamkos on long-term injured reserve, the Lightning can spend above the cap ceiling by over $8 million for as long as he's sidelined. That gives management room to pursue a rental defenseman. 

Should Stamkos return to action before March 1, the Lightning could consider a salary-dumping deal to clear space for a top-four blueliner. Goaltender Ben Bishop ($5.95-million cap hit) is frequently mentioned as a trade option and could be asked to waive his no-movement clause.

Center Valtteri Filppula ($5 million) could also be asked to waive his clause. That move could be made  not just to clear cap space but also to ensure sufficient room to protect a young forward, such as winger Jonathan Drouin, in June's expansion draft. 

Possible trade targets for the Bolts include pending free agents such as Arizona's Michael Stone, Buffalo's Dmitry Kulikov, Calgary's Dennis Wideman, Carolina's Ron Hainsey, Dallas' Johnny Oduya and the New York Islanders' Dennis Seidenberg. 

Finding a long-term option will be difficult for the Blues. Perhaps they could package a struggling forward, such as Jori Lehtera or Nail Yakupov, with a draft pick or prospect. They could target a team that risks losing a good defenseman to the expansion draft, such as the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild or Nashville Predators. 

SPOONER TRADE TALK QUIET AS TRADE FREEZE APPROACHES

As the NHL's holiday trade freeze (Dec. 19-27) fast approaches, Boston Bruins winger Ryan Spooner remains a fixture in the rumor mill. 

Earlier this month, a report out of Boston claimed Bruins management spoke with several teams about Spooner. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks were said to have interest in the 24-year-old, who's struggling this season after putting up 49 points in 2015-16. 

The Vancouver Canucks are another club in need of offense linked to Spooner. Canucks GM Jim Benning knows the young center from his days as the Bruins assistant GM. 

In recent days, however, specuation on Spooner's trade status has faded. The only item of note comes from Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reporting he was told there's no truth to a rumored deal sending Spooner to the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Matt Dumba. 

While the Bruins were in need of blueline depth entering this season, the solid play of rookie Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller's return from injury stabilized their defense. Offense is now a more pressing concern. They're in the bottom third in goals per game (2.30) and their scoring drops sharply beyond forwards Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and David Krejci. 

If the Bruins trade Spooner in the comings weeks, they could package him with a draft pick or prospect in hopes of landing a top-six scorer.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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Rumor Roundup: Lightning, Blues targeting a top-four defender before deadline