My second topic for this segment is veteran defenseman Eric Brewer. This one is tough because I think the Lightning have the tools to turn things around quickly – and Brewer would be an important piece during the stretch run. That being said, there are some young defensemen like Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas knocking on the door. Keith Aulie is already in the NHL and proving that he belongs. Let’s take a look at both sides:
Trade Him: Moving Brewer’s contract (cap hit of $3.875 million for two more seasons after this one) would give the team greater roster flexibility heading into the offseason. As it stands, they will have $6.6 million to fill seven roster spots. This includes Mattias Ohlund, though, so the actual number is closer to $10.2 million for eight roster spots. Not impossible, but it does tie Steve Yzerman’s hands when making a play for free agents. Brewer is 33 and, with the team struggling this season, he could bring back assets from a contender that would be more valuable to the Lightning in the long run.
Keep Him: Like I said at the top, I’m conflicted about dealing him because he’d be valuable to this team if they turn things around – and I think they are capable of doing that. Brewer came over as a pending UFA from the Blues and did not cost the Lightning much – Brock Beukeboom and a 3rd round pick – and I think the additional years on his contract now would limit the returns to something similar. Not exactly a king’s ransom.
Bottom Line: With Brendan Mikkelson clearing waivers and getting assigned to Syracuse, it looks like the Lightning will call up one of Barberio/Gudas to see how they fare with the big club. How the latter player does while with the Lightning will be a big tell for a possible Brewer move in my opinion. If (Barberio/Gudas) plays well and looks like they are NHL ready, Brewer instantly becomes more expendable. That being said, Yzerman spent big money this offseason to shore up the team’s blueline. I don’t think he’ll be clamoring to move a top four guy if (Barberio/Gudas) struggles and if the return is not good. In the end, I’m of the opinion that he doesn’t get moved because the offers won’t be good enough.