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Countdown to the deadline: Lightning

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could decide to make a hockey deal instead of acquiring a rental. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

The Tampa Bay Lightning are contending for first place in the Eastern Conference, but general manager Steve Yzerman remains just as focused on the big-picture plan as he is on seeing his team succeed this season. It's a plan that he's flawlessly pulled off so far in building one of the NHL's most exciting and talented squads. The future is just as important as the present, however, which is why Yzerman isn't going to trade away his top prospect or a first-round pick before the March 2 trade deadline just to get another key piece. In fact, trading away his second-round pick, while very much possible, is going to have to be justified.

Is Tampa looking add a piece? Yes. But it's going to have to be at a reasonable and justified price.

Status: CAREFUL BUYER

Needs: Injuries to blueliners Matt Carle (could be back in early March) and Radko Gudas (out until mid-April at least) have left Tampa relying on young call-ups to fill in on defense. And while the Lightning believe in those youngsters long term, the team's play has slipped defensively over the past month. Management knows that if there's a deal to be had, adding a more experienced blueliner before March 2 would make sense. But again, no way the Lightning are flipping a first-round pick if that's the price for the top rental blueliner left on the market, the Carolina Hurricanes' Andrej Sekera. Tampa just won't pay that price. But if there's a way to get a guy like Sekera for less, then I think the Lightning would think about it. Same goes for the Edmonton Oilers' Jeff Petry, who like Sekera is a pending unrestricted free agent. The plus with Petry is that he's right-handed, where there's a bigger need for Tampa.

Finances: It's complicated for Tampa because the team is in LTI, but the Bolts have about $4 million of cap space to work with. That's more than enough to accommodate a piece on defense at the deadline.

Scouting the GM: Yzerman has built himself a contender with serious sustainability for a number of seasons. Wait a minute, did he go to the Detroit Red Wings University before he got to Tampa? Oh yeah, he did. Know this about Yzerman and the trade deadline, however: He's not a big fan of it in terms of overpaying for moves that he thinks rarely have a big impact for playoff-bound teams. That's why he will be measured and pay only what he thinks the deal is worth. I also think that, if an opportunity presents itself to make a hockey deal instead of a rental deal, he would look at picking up a defenseman who plays for the team past this season.