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NHL Trade Deadline: Lightning Still Waiting Things Out

As the NHL trade deadline gets closer, the Tampa Bay Lightning are stuck in the middle and GM Steve Yzerman is playing his cards close to the chest.

The NHL trade deadline is only a handful of weeks away, but GM Steve Yzerman won't publicly commit to either buying or selling.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been playing well in recent weeks, winning six of their previous eight games, and they are only nine points out of a potential playoff spot. While the odds are getting longer every day, Yzerman doesn't sound comfortable making a decision on how to approach the deadline until after this week's key matchups against the Rangers and Penguins.

"The team is playing well," Yzerman said before Tampa Bay's 3-1 loss stopped its 6-0-1 points streak. "We're winning games. There's still lots of time left. ... Let this play itself out." (Tampa Bay Times)

Of course, it seems like a foregone conclusion that despite Yzerman's public hesitancy, he will be looking to sell at the deadline. The Bolts have 30 games left and need to accrue 40 points to make it to 90 points (and have an outside shot at the playoffs) -- a tall order despite their current hot streak. The smart move for the Lightning would be to make moves that improve the team for the 2012-2013 season and beyond, while hopefully doing as little as possible to upset the current team's core.

If the Lightning were to sell, they have a number of role players that could be intriguing for other teams. Steve Downie is a scrappy, effective forward that will come with a small cap hit, while Marc-Andre Bergeron is an offensive blue-liner that could be a useful part down the stretch for a contender. Brett Clark also has a long history of defensive success (even if he's flopped a bit this season), and some team may want to pick him up.

If possible, Yzerman would likely shed himself of Ryan Malone's $4.5 million cap hit through 2014-2015, but his no-trade status makes him a challenge to deal. The same can be said about Victor Ohlund, whose knee problems may result in the Lightning needing to buy out his current deal.

This is all speculation and not based on inside sources of information, so please don't read into it too much. But based on their available parts and their position in the standings, this could be a busy trade deadline for Yzerman.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.