We noticed that our conference finalists all had a flaw or two, so we decided to get creative.
In a world where there is no trade deadline, make one trade between two of the conference finalists that would improve both teams.
Greg Wyshynski: Let's make a deal between the two teams in a hole at the moment. The Tampa Bay Lightning are losing the speed, hustle and depth battles against the Washington Capitals. The Vegas Golden Knights are getting pushed around by the Winnipeg Jets. So how about a swap of Cody Eakin from the Knights to the Bolts, in exchange for veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn?
Eakin is a fast-skating center who can pitch in on the penalty kill and bring some offense to a bottom six that has being throttled at 5-on-5. Coburn can bring it physically, while using his long reach to disrupt offensive plays. The Lightning have a few defensemen who can slot in -- Andrej Sustr, Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek among them -- and hey, maybe they even get a player with a little extra motivation, since Eakin was drafted by the Capitals and played in Washington as a rookie.
Emily Kaplan: The Golden Knights have plenty of capable defenders, though none profile for a true top pairing. As these playoffs trudge along -- and especially against a loaded Winnipeg team -- it's clear Vegas could use a veteran with experience. What if Vegas plucked Matt Niskanen (801 NHL career games) from Washington? In exchange, the Golden Knights would send another right-handed defenseman, Luca Sbisa, to the Capitals, along with Oscar Lindberg.
The key here is the future. Washington, always strapped against the cap, wipes Niskanen's $5.75 million cap hit through 2020-21 off the books -- which could pave the way for re-signing John Carlson. Sbsia can plug in for these playoffs, and becomes a UFA over the summer. Lindberg is a cheap-ish ($1.7 million cap hit) depth forward with a ton of speed and upside; I had huge expectations for Lindberg when he was selected in the expansion draft, and he just needs a fresh start.
There are about 742 reasons why this trade would never happen, including: Yeah, right, there's no way George McPhee is conducting business with the team that fired him. Not yet anyway.
Chris Peters: If I'm the Jets, I'd have to consider the abundance of talent available up front and see what I might be able to get out of a team in desperation. The Lightning are not having a great time at even strength against the surging Capitals. Nabbing a player who has proven over the course of his career to excel at even strength would be ideal. Getting one who knows many of the Caps at least a little bit is an added bonus.
So Mathieu Perreault would be the guy Tampa should target in our little make-believe scenario. What would it cost? Alex Killorn has been a solid playoff performer, but having a player like Perreault who could move into the middle -- with the ability to spell rookie Anthony Cirelli in that spot -- and give your forward lineup more balance would be better. The Jets, meanwhile get a guy with a lot of experience and success at the postseason at a similar cost, though with longer term. For that, the Lightning could kick in a midround draft pick or midrange prospect to sweeten the pot from their unfavorable bargaining position.
The Bolts get a third-line center they can trust more against good competition, and the Jets have a veteran winger who could plug in and play with that lineup as well as anybody, plus a little something for the future.