ST. LOUIS — Could Marty St. Louis’ final days with the Lightning be played out in St. Louis?
Tampa Bay finishes a four-game road trip on Tuesday against the Blues and will not play again until after Wednesday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline.
That is the backdrop for Tampa Bay amid reports St. Louis requested a trade to the New York Rangers – near his summer residence in Connecticut – after he was left off the Canadian Olympic roster on Jan. 7.
St. Louis was later named to the Canada roster, as a replacement for injured Steven Stamkos, and captured a gold medal in Sochi, Russia.
Neither St. Louis nor Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, also the GM for Team Canada, has addressed the validity of the reports, with St. Louis offering only that he “discussed his future with Steve.’’
Trade speculation has quieted since the reports first surfaced a week ago that the captain and team’s leading scorer wanted to be dealt. And quiet could wind up describing the Lightning when it comes to the trade deadline this season.
Tampa Bay currently sits in a playoff position, as it has for most of the season, but has just three victories in the past nine games.
The best possible “trade-deadline” acquisition likely will come from within the organization, as two-time 50-goal scorer Steven Stamkos is expected to return — possibly as early as Thursday — after missing nearly four months with a broken right tibia.
Stamkos will have his next checkup on Wednesday.
“Obviously we are thrilled and hoping he comes back,’’ Yzerman said of Stamkos. “But any opportunity you have to improve your team, you look at it. So, getting Stammer back (helps) and if I could do anything that would improve the team I would.’’
The Lightning also expect to get back second-leading scorer Valtteri Filppula, who has missed four games with a non-displaced ankle fracture suffered on Feb. 6. Filppula could return Tuesday, but is considered day-to-day.
So, with Tampa Bay in the thick of the playoff chase heading into the final six weeks of the season, Yzerman could be a buyer at the deadline. And it’s not exactly a secret the Lightning have been on the lookout for some help on defense, with a top-four caliber player on the radar screen since the summer.
But such players are in short supply and high demand at any time during the year. They also come with a steep asking price, though Tampa Bay has a deep talent pool of young forwards that could be used as trade bait.
“Generally, teams aren’t trading guys in their prime, or guys with term on their contract who are playing well, for a young player in the minors,” Yzerman said. “You’re not getting an NHL player, a good NHL player, for a kid down the minors; it just doesn’t happen. As part of a bigger package, maybe. So, I’m not opposed the trading a younger player as part of a bigger package.’’
Yzerman has been in Tampa since Sunday with other members of the management staff, assessing the team’s needs and what could be done to address any holes. But if nothing materializes and Yzerman is comfortable letting the players who brought the team this far be the ones to lead it into the homestretch.
“I’m not going to do something just to do it,” Yzerman said. “This team has played hard, these young guys have done a good job, the veterans have done a very good job, the goaltending has been solid.
“So, if this is the same group after the trade deadline, I’m very pleased with them.’’