With the April 3rd trade deadline less than a month away, the time is now for teams to begin assessing their playoff chances and deciding what kind of moves, if any, need to be made. My goal is to do a few of these over the coming weeks, hopefully with more and more conviction as the standings continue to take shape.
My first topic for this segment is handlebar mustache aficionado Nate Thompson. I think Nate is a strong candidate to be traded, but at the same time he’s a strong candidate for a midseason contract extension. He’s received one from the Lightning before and he has been noticeably strong these past few games. He’s a valuable asset on the lower lines, but a team that is looking to bolster its depth for a playoff run might be willing to overpay. Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.
Trade Him: There are several players in Syracuse, such as Tyler Johnson, that could fill his role in the next 1-2 seasons and they probably have higher offensive ceilings than Nate. He is in the last year of his contract and currently makes $900,000, but with the cap set to go down in the offseason his salary demands may be too rich for his role. What I am envisioning here is a Steve Downie-esque trade…people will hate it if it happens, but it will likely be a “sell high” situation where the team benefits in the long run.
Keep Him: Nate is an extremely versatile player. He’s a natural center, but has no trouble playing either wing. He’s slotted in on the top lines many times this season, further proving his versatility. At 28, he’s not exactly a graybeard but he is a good mentor for the kids coming up from Syracuse and seeing time on the lower lines. He’s faster than Adam Hall, so if he can become as good as Hall in the faceoff dot he would be harder to let go of.
Bottom Line: I think Nate will either be traded or re-signed, but to me there is a 0% chance he will be let go if he finishes the season with Tampa. If the Lightning keep Nate, I’d say they can let go of BJ Crombeen and Adam Hall and fill that space with a couple of young guns. It really all comes down to what offers, if any, the Lightning receive. He’s the kind of player I absolutely want to keep, but if some team is desperate and wants to cough up a 2nd round pick then I say you do it and run away laughing.