The Lightning have shocked the EHEC world by dealing all time leading goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk to the LA Kings. GM Geoff Smith announced the deal, stating that after careful consideration, he thought that this move was in the best long-term interest of the team. While the Lightning lost in the Cup finals last season, they have been plagued by inconsistent play, leaving them sitting in 6th in the Eastern conference.
The Lightning also sent defensemen Ronald Knot and Oscar Klefbom to Los Angeles, in return for young centre Kyle Connor, defensemen Jacob Larsson and David Fischer, prospect Thimo Nickl and LA's 1st pick in the 2022 entry draft.
Kovalchuk was coming to the end of a contract paying him the league max, $9.0M this year, and is expected to be testing the free agent market after the season. His 34 goals led the Lightning this season. Knot and Klefbom played regular, but limited roles, and neither were expected to be back next season as well.
Connor has had an off year in LA, registering only 26 points in 56 games, a far cry from the 59 points he had last season. Larsson is expected to take on a top 4 role on the blueline, easing some of the burden on veteran Dustin Byfuglien. Veteran Fischer was included in the deal for salary cap reasons only, and likely won't see much icetime, if any. Nickl, a 19 year old Austrian, was drafted 60th overall last summer and is playing in the OHL this year, registering 48 points in 58 games..
In a much less noteworthy deal, the Lightning also traded 3rd line centre Joe Colborne to Ottawa for forward Erik Karlsson, prospect Ruben Rafkin, and Colorado's 4th pick in 2021.
Colborne had a good start to the season, but struggled recently, with only 4 points in his last 15 games, prompting the move. Rumor has it that Colborne's salary demands for next season led to the move, as Karlsson is expected to be sent to the AHL, while Rafkin isn't expected to be more than a minor league tough guy.