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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lightning Trade for Commodore, Lee and Aulie - Wings, Senators and Leafs Involved

Steve Yzerman, Vice President and GM of the Lightning, had already been busy with trades in the past month so it was a surprise that he was so active on the trade deadline day.

Other trades he made earlier in the month included moving Steve Downie and acquiring Kyle Quincey, who he in turn traded to Detroit. You can read about the players and the 1st Round draft pick involved with these trades in my article entitled: “Lightning Trade Downie and Quincey.” Yzerman also had two other deals in February and both were excellent trades. In one he dealt Pavel Kubina for some draft picks and a minor league player, and in the other he sent Dominic Moore to the Sharks for a 2nd Round pick. You can read about these trades in my article entitled: “Lightning Trade Kubina to Flyers and Moore to the Sharks.”

Let’s have a look at the three trades that Yzerman ratified on the trade deadline day. The Red Wings, Senators and Leafs were involved in these trades.

Mike Commodore for Conditional Draft Pick

Yzerman acquired veteran defenseman Mike Commodore from the Red Wings in exchange for a conditional 7th Round pick in the 2013 draft. The condition is that Commodore plays in at least 15 of the remaining regular season games and that the Lightning make the playoffs this year.

This trade is lopsided in Yzerman’s favor and I have to say that it was simply a huge personal favor to him for what he gave to the Wings as a player, and also a favor to Commodore who is 32 years old and was not getting ice time. Even without considering the long-shot condition, the trade is in Yzerman’s favor since Commodore is a big guy with a proven record in the NHL, while a 7th Round pick could turn out to be a player who never plays an NHL game. Commodore’s best years were with the Hurricanes and he won a Stanley Cup with them in 2006. He also played well for the Blue Jackets in two of his three seasons with them. Furthermore, Yzerman knows Commodore very well since he chose him to play for the 2007 World Championship team that Yzerman put together, and they won Gold. Commodore will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and if he performs well over the next 18 games I expect him to sign a one-year contract with the Lightning next year.

I am sure that part of Yzerman’s agreement with Ken Holland, unwritten of course, is that Yzerman will play Commodore in every remaining game unless he is injured. Commodore has played two games already and the Lightning have 18 games left. However, tonight the long-shot condition of the trade became closer to reality because the Lightning won their third straight game tonight and the Capitals lost, thus placing the Lightning only three points behind Washington (both teams have played 64 games) and four points behind the Jets who have played two more games (66 games).    

Finally, the Wings should have kept Commodore because they are beat-up a little on defense right now and if something major happens before or during the playoffs it could cost them. Lidstrom is out a week or so with a bruised bone in his ankle, Jonathan Ericsson is out a month with a broken wrist, and newly acquired Kyle Quincey has a sore groin and was played tonight despite that fact. So, it was a gamble and a mistake by Ilitch, Wilson and GM Ken Holland.

Brian Lee for Matt Gilroy

Yzerman traded defenseman Matt Gilroy to the Senators in exchange for defenseman Brian Lee. Gilroy had played two seasons for the Rangers and this year with the Lightning, and had posted decent offensive numbers and was also +2, +5 and even for the three years. He’s 27 years old. Lee on the other hand does not put many points on the board and he is not as good defensively as Yzerman thinks. Lee was drafted by the Senators in the 1st Round in the 2005 Entry Draft, ninth overall, but that does not make him an NHL player. He’s 24 years old now and I don’t see a lot of improvement in his game. It seems clear that Ottawa got the best of the deal by far; however, the issue for Yzerman was that Gilroy will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and Lee will be a restricted free agent. If Gilroy does not like Canada and the Senators he will surely sign a decent-sized contract with a team in the United States. He is from New York. Nevertheless, I feel it was a good gamble for the Senators because Gilroy can help them in the playoffs this year, and, maybe he will like Karlsson and the other players and decide to sign a long-term deal with the Senators? That would be a huge bonus. On the other hand, if they lose Gilroy it would not be a big loss because Lee has not proven himself at the NHL level. In my mind Yzerman made a huge mistake because Gilroy is clearly the better player and Yzerman should have chosen to try to sign him. Not too many players would want to leave Florida and a good hockey team, and Gilroy is making a measly 1 million this year! Offer the guy 5 or 6 million for three years and watch him jump at it.    

Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton

Yzerman traded right-winger Carter Ashton to the Leafs for defenseman Keith Aulie.

Ashton is 20 years old and was the Lightning’s 1st Round pick in the 2009 draft (the 29th pick overall). He’s 6' 3'' and 215 pounds and will probably put on a little more muscle and be a good winger in the NHL. He played for Canada in the WJC last year and had one goal and two assists in seven games.

Aulie is 22 years old and was the Flames 4th Round pick in the 2007 draft (the 116th pick overall). He’s tall at 6' 6'' and weighs 217 pounds. Last year he played 40 games with the Leafs and had two goals and was -1. This year he only played 17 games with the Leafs before being sent back down to the Toronto Marlies. 

The Leafs wanted some size up front and the Lightning wanted a solid defenseman so it looks like both teams could benefit from the trade. We might see both Ashton and Aulie in the NHL next year. The Leafs also need defensemen, guys who can skate faster and make fewer mistakes.

Final Analysis

Yzerman appears to have made a great trade in getting Commodore from the Wings. His trade for Brian Lee was a huge mistake in my opinion, because he probably could have signed Gilroy without having to pay him that much. The trade for Aulie may or may not turn out well for Yzerman. Aulie already has some NHL experience and Ashton has yet to be given an opportunity. I am looking forward to seeing Ashton with the Leafs at the beginning of next year to see how he does. Hopefully both of these guys will do well for their teams.

TJ Stanley