The Tampa Bay Lightning trade deadline will be interesting to watch this season. Over the last several seasons, they’ve been active with deals. It started with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. More recently, it has been Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont. This season, there is a question of what the Lightning should do; buy or sell? Here at Last Word, Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta will start a series where they look at some potential trades. Let’s say they buy, who do they get? What do they give up? Today, we look at Daniel Sprong of the Detroit Red Wings.
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline Target: Daniel Sprong
Ever since his draft year in 2015, the Pittsburgh Penguins organization had high expectations for Sprong. The second-round draft pick ripped up the QMJHL before playing at a point-per-game pace in the AHL during the 2017-18 season. Unfortunately, Sprong did not blossom for the team that drafted him. He recorded just seven points in 24 games with the Penguins before he got traded to the Anaheim Ducks. Sprong spent the next few seasons with the Washington Capitals and proved his goal-scoring touch had not completely faded. However, the 2022-23 season put Sprong’s name on the radar. He signed with the Seattle Kraken as a free agent, where he tallied 21 goals and 46 points in 66 games.
This past summer, Sprong earned himself a one-year deal with Detroit. Like many other free agents on the market this year, Sprong took a chance on himself to earn a higher salary while the cap rises over the next few seasons. As a Red Wing this season, he has 13 goals and 32 points in 50 games. Sprong has established himself as a legitimate offensive threat around the league. Why would the Lightning take an interest in a player like Sprong on an expiring contract?
Sprong Scouting Report
The quick and explosive skating of the Netherlands native provides the base for his dynamic offensive abilities. Sprong has excellent balance and puck control that allows him to shake off defenders and maintain possession. Furthermore, he has a lightning-quick wrist shot that can beat the goalie anywhere in the net. Sprong is a high-volume shooter and ranks 10th in the league with 10.6 shots per 60 at 5v5 this season.
He is versatile because he can attack on the rush, the cycle, and the man-advantage. In addition, his passing abilities have improved, making him a dual threat offensively compared to years past. After all, 73% of his assists over the past two seasons are primary. On the other hand, his defensive game still needs some work. Yet, with the proper role and deployment, Sprong will not be an issue on his defensive end. For example, Sprong Derek LaLonde has Sprong start 9.71% of his shifts in the defensive zone (9.71 DZS%), which ranks second-last amongst Detroit forwards. What other attributes does Sprong bring to the table?
Once again, Sprong is best known for his dynamic offensive game. Microstats data from Corey Sznajder at All Three Zones proves this point further. With the Kraken last season, Sprong ranked in the 91st percentile of rush offence per hour. Sprong uses his lengthy stride to create separation from defenders off the rush. Then, he always adds a few fakes before he shoots on the goaltender. Sprong is deceptive with his puck handling, which puts the goaltender out of position. Moreover, Sprong proved he can play in the cycle game with Detroit this season. He ranks in the 69th percentile of offence via the cycle and forecheck per 60 this year.
Additionally, the Lightning can use the aid of Sprong to improve their rush offence. In three recently tracked games at Last Word, the Lightning have been out-shot on the rush by a deficit of 28-20 (41.67 RSHT%). The Lightning were out-shot by a ratio of 14-0 on January 11th against the New Jersey Devils off the rush. Generating zero rush shots in a 60-minute game is unacceptable for a playoff-caliber team. Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Nick Paul, and Michael Eyssimont lead the team with three rush shots each in the tracked games. With the addition of Sprong, the Lightning can add a new component on the offensive front for the second half of the season.
The Concerns For Sprong
The red flag for Sprong is how well he can replicate his play in an increased role. Sprong has played against mostly bottom-six forwards over the past two seasons. He has proven himself above a bottom-six level caliber, but will his two-way game allow him to be sustainable in a second-line role? We know Sprong can play off the rush and the cycle. There is evidence that his offensive style is system-proof. The microstats back up the eye test, and Sprong has the potential to work in Jon Cooper’s system. The “on the fence” statement has hovered above Sprong’s name since his draft year, and the statement remains for the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline.
Additionally, Julien BriseBois is not a fan of deadline rentals. Historically, all of his deadline acquisitions are multi-year projects for the organization. Sprong will likely test the open market this summer. He has pieced together another solid season to earn a pay raise in the off-season. Therefore, the Lightning may not take an interest in a rental.
What It Would (Likely) Take To Daniel Sprong
The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline offers two comparable deadline deals for a potential Sprong trade. Max Domi (0.82 points per game) got traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Anton Khudobin and a 2025 second-round draft pick. Vladimir Tarasenko (0.76 points per game) joined the New York Rangers for Sammy Blais, Hunter Skinner, and a conditional draft pick. Similar to Sprong, both these forwards offer a versatile offensive skill set. Tarasenko has a lethal shot, while Domi prefers to pass first.
Sprong is younger than both players and provides dual-threat offensive instincts. He will fetch a solid return with 0.64 points per game up to this point in the season. The Lightning have the assets to target a player of Sprong’s caliber at the deadline. At a cap hit of $2 million, Sprong is an affordable option for the cap-strapped Lightning. Below is a hypothetical offer to acquire Sprong from the Red Wings.
Tampa Bay acquires: Daniel Sprong (F)
Detroit acquires: 2025 second-round pick, 2026 third-round pick
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: In Or Out On Sprong
While the idea of a 26-year-old forward entering the prime of his career seems enticing on paper, the best move for the Lightning is likely to stay away from Sprong at the trade deadline. We have no doubts that Sprong will boost the middle-six scoring for Tampa Bay, the biggest weakness of the roster to date. However, the Lightning can not afford to sacrifice more picks and prospects, especially for a pure rental. The Bolts do not have possession of a first-round pick until 2026.
Many fans from our Twitter polls are interested in staying the course this season, then reevaluating during the off-season with Steven Stamkos‘ deal expiring. The Lightning will be better off finding assets for cheaper and attempting to find a diamond in the rough, similar to the Eyssimont trade last deadline. The Lightning front office has an advantage over other teams with the ability to maximize any player with Cooper’s system. With that being said, the estimated price for Sprong at the trade deadline is too much for Tampa Bay.
Advanced percentiles via AllThreeZones (paid subscription required)
Lightning tracked stats via Last Word (Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta)
Main Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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