Vancouver Canucks – Tampa Bay Lightning
Vrbata is the one player standing in Virtanen’s way. That does not necessarily mean that Virtanen would move up to the second line in case of a Vrbata trade, but he would at least make it up to the third line. Virtanen needs ice time, and he won’t get much of that as long as Vrbata is around.
Slater Koekkoek, the Lightning’s 10th overall pick in 2012, is not quite working out as planned. He made his NHL debut last season but has only appeared in two more games since. He is a member of the AHL Syracuse Crunch where he does a decent job but is far from outstanding. A change of scenery might help him make the jump.
Koekkoek is a very mobile defenceman with good offensive skills, who also possesses the size coaches want to see in an NHL D-man. At 6-foot-2 and roughly 200 pounds, Koekkoek has a good frame but doesn’t use it enough. He is a solid all-around D-man with decent potential that he may or may not reach — no matter where he plays.
Why the Lightning should do it: Tampa Bay is stacked on offence, but their best scorers — including Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson — are struggling a little. Vrbata could play on Johnson’s wing and bury some of his passes.
Vrbata only has 18 points in 42 career playoff games, which is something many people like to state when talking Vrbata trades. However, nine of those games were in his rookie season and the majority of the rest for the Phoenix Coyotes, who were never a real contender. On a team like the Lightning, he could contribute a lot of offense in the top or bottom six.
The Lightning’s defence is also doing alright. They might need a prospect or two to make the jump sometime soon, but who knows if Koekkoek can be that guy — and who cares if Tampa wins a Stanley Cup.
Vrbata is not the one guy who will bring a Cup to Tampa, but he could end up being an important piece in a long playoff run.
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