Yzerman talks blockbuster trade: ‘Don’t hold your breath’

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Thirty games into the NHL campaign and the defending Eastern Conference champions sit in 11th place, three points back of a playoff spot.

Raise your hand if you had New Jersey, Florida, Detroit, Boston and Ottawa all out-ranking the Tampa Bay Lightning this deep into 2015-16.

Due in part to key injuries, Tampa has plummeted to 27th in offence league-wide. Captain Steven Stamkos, who leads all Bolts with 22 points, has not scored a goal in eight games.

Despite the surprising under-performance of a club that appeared poised to contend for the Presidents’ Trophy and Stamkos’ looming free agency, general manager Steve Yzerman says he is no rush to make a blockbuster trade.

“Don’t sit around holding your breath waiting for us to make this big, giant move,” Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday. “If everybody is sitting around waiting for this big, huge deal that’s going to turn things around, those are hard to do.

“We have a good team that’s been [in] a grind, injuries have been another complication for us. We’ll keep working towards it. We generally like our team, but all I can say is, if something makes sense to make us better, we’ll do it.”

Core players Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette, Erik Condra, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin have all contributed to the the team’s 65 man-games lost due to injuries.

Yzerman has reportedly explored trading veteran defenceman Matt Carle, whose hefty contract makes him difficult to move. Stamkos has a full no-movement clause this season, and Yzerman has remained tight-lipped this season as speculation surrounding his star’s future swirls.

Even with the NHL’s salary cap expected to rise $3 million for 2016-17, Yzerman will be hard-pressed to lock up Stamkos as well as pending RFAs Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov, knowing Johnson, Palat, Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman will all be seeking raises in 2017.

“We like our team; we like our players,” Yzerman said. “We’d like to keep everybody if we possibly can.”

The NHL’s holiday roster freeze kicks in Friday, but the Lightning GM is waiting until late January to make a hard assessment of this year’s roster.

“A month or so before the [Feb. 29 trade] deadline, you’re really starting to assess, ‘What are we going to do?'” Yzerman said. “‘Are we a playoff contender? Are we for sure a playoff team, or are we not going to make it?’ Then you determine what direction you go at that point.”

Like his struggling club, Yzerman has still some time on his side.

“I’m thinking as far as the trade market goes, is there a way we can improve our team that makes us better today but also makes us better in the long term?”

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