The Lightning came within a game – a couple of goals, in fact – of the Stanley Cup Final last season. The ultimate champion took them out. They had made it to the Final the previous year, but lost to the Blackhawks.
And just like that, their window has closed.
The Tampa Bay Lightning traded Ben Bishop last Sunday. They followed that by moving Brian Boyle and dumping Valtteri Filppula. Ryan Callahan would have gone, too, if his hip hadn't needed another "procedure."
Rebuild? Or reboot? Does it really matter?
Sure, they got roster flexibility and a bunch of draft picks back. Good on them, especially with the expansion draft on the horizon.
The Bolts took their shot. And they failed. So has St. Louis. Montreal is grasping at straws. So are Boston, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.
Washington has swung for the fences. Maybe Kevin Shattenkirk will get the Capitals past the conference semifinals.
That is, if they exorcise their demons. Damn, those flightless birds.
The Bolts' plight goes to show how narrow the Stanley Cup window really is. And for that matter, the fantasy window, too.
What can keeper leaguers learn from this?
Bolts' general manager Steve Yzerman could have tried to make a run again, especially if he bet on Steven Stamkos coming back. Instead, Stevie Y swallowed hard and made some big moves. And he did it while his best player is still just 27.
The Bolts core is still solid. Steven Stamkos is still in his prime. And they have Victor Hedman, who will be 26 heading into next season, 24-year-old Nikita Kucherov, 23-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jonathan Drouin, who soon turns 22.
Keeper leaguers need to look at their core. And be brutally honest with their prospect of winning. I won my home league last season. I then moved 34-year-old Pekka Rinne, just a top-15 goalie this year, for 24-year-old, top-15 defender John Klingberg before the start of 2016-17. #NoRegrets.
But I also should have moved Ryan Getzlaf, James Neal and Shea Weber, too. Stevie Y would have. He wouldn't sit on a declining asset.
And he certainly wouldn't have guys like Marian Hossa, Daniel Sedin and Patrick Sharp on his roster. The window closed on me trading those guys, so now I have to ride it out. I can't cut them, but only Hossa has any use.
Channel your inner Y. Don't wait for the window to close hard on a declining asset. Sigh.
Now, let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Adam Clendening, D, NY Rangers (0 percent Yahoo! owned) - I have always liked Clendening – he's a great skater with the ability to quarterback a power play. But he's now on his fifth NHL team in five seasons and still only has 76 games in his jock. Gulp. Clendening has two points (goal, assist), seven PIM and eight shots in the four games heading into the weekend. And he's on a 30-point pace. His ice time may be restricted with the arrival of Brendan Smith and the emergence of Brady Skjei. But Clendening still affords low-level value for those desperate to fill a spot on their blue line with more than a big orange pylon.
Aaron Dell, G, San Jose (10 percent) - I was offered Dell in trade this past week and I almost bit. I ultimately said no – it was an eight-player swap and I just didn't like the math on the overall deal. But Dell's inclusion made me pause – he has been pretty much a sure thing on spot starts … well, as long as those starts have been against non-playoff teams. Still, a win is a win. Take a peek at your wire. Dell might be out there.
Patrick Eaves, RW, Anaheim (20 percent) - Eaves has been a supreme sniper this season. But you already knew that. Now, he's playing on a line with one of the league's best setup men in Ryan Getzlaf. Check your wire. You might just get lucky.
Micheal Ferland, LW/RW, Calgary (2 percent) - Spelling Mistake has had his stick in the right place at the right time since late last month. Ferland is a thick power forward who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty. And that has resulted in two goals in his last three games and four in his last six. Ferland does the dirty work on the Johnny Gaudreau/Sean Monahan line. Nuf said?
Elias Lindholm, RW/C, Carolina (6 percent) - Lindholm, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho form one of the NHL's most underrated lines. Why? Because of that swirling toilet bowl on the front of their shirts – Carolina doesn't exactly instill confidence in fantasy owners. Or fans, for that matter. But I digress. Lindholm has four points, including three assists, in his last five games and is delivering cheap production for anyone who has roster moves to spare.
Frans Nielsen, C, Detroit (10 percent) - Nielsen has two 50-point seasons in his last three, but it's taken him a bit to get comfortable in the mitten state. I'm still not sure if he's totally figured out the Red Wings system, but he has been semi-productive in his last five games. Nielsen has three goals and an assist in that span and all but one of the points have come with the man advantage. He might help you. At minimum, do not let him help someone else.
David Savard, D, Columbus (8 percent) - Savard teased with 36 points two seasons ago and fantasy owners thought he'd finally started to deliver on his prospect promise. Nope. But last Saturday night, Savard dished up a three-point game. And he had a four-point, plus-9 week heading into play this Saturday. Savard might just help.
Reilly Smith, RW, Florida (10 percent) - Smith has two 50-point seasons on his resume. But his 28 points in 61 games this season are queasy at best and most fantasy owners gave up on him early. Smith has started to warm up with eight helpers in his last 10 games. He's a definite bargain play right now.
Mark Streit, D, Pittsburgh (16 percent) - Streit might be 40, but the guy still knows how to run the PP. He will play on the Pens second power-play unit and could be on his way to his first Stanley Cup. I'm buying – there's a load of firepower on that team and Streit will do more than just keep up.
Back to closed windows.
I want to take a moment to pay tribute to a dear friend and fellow RotoWire hockey writer, Dan Pennucci, who passed away suddenly on Feb. 25.
Dan was an excellent writer and a tough competitor in fantasy hockey. He was a one of the good ones. Humble. Smart. Funny. And damn good at everything he touched. His only flaw? He was a fan of the New Jersey Devils. I forgave him many times for that, but I still rubbed salt in that boring hockey wound.
The window closed on Dan far, far too young. In the words of the great American poet and journalist, William Cullen Bryant …
"And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief."
RIP Dan Pennucci. I'll miss the trash talk and our many debates. But I'll miss your friendship most of all.
Until next week.