The salary cap situation at the Tampa Bay Lightning was always going to be interesting this offseason. Once Steven Stamkos decided he wanted to stay in sunny Florida, things got even more complicated for the Bolts’ General Manager Steve Yzerman.
The Lightning have had a few players shine during their last couple of playoff runs, and as happens in professional sports, when players come up big, they ask for big money in return.
Left winger Alex Killorn was one of those players. After a couple of clutch performances in the post-season, he was in line for a raise from his $2.55m salary. Kudos to his agent, because yesterday he got a seven-year extension from the Bolts, worth $4.45m per year.
This puts Tampa in a very interesting situation now, as they have 48/50 players signed with just a shade over $8.5m room under the salary cap. Yet to be signed is budding superstar right winger Nikita Kucherov, another clutch performer for the club over the past couple of seasons.
Minutes after announcing the Killorn deal, Yzerman said that he is looking to get all his RFAs signed: Kucherov, center Vladislav Namestnikov and defenseman Nikita Nesterov. Namestnikov has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29, and Yzerman is hoping to get him signed before that.
Depending on what Tampa decides their internal salary cap is and leaving room for working expenses during the season, they could be in a sticky situation soon.
Killorn at 40pts per season player got $4.45m per year. Kucherov is a 60+pts per season winger with double digit goals in two consecutive playoff seasons. He’ll be looking for at the very least Tyler Seguin money, who has a relatively cheap $6m per year.
Both Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat had down seasons last year, and with Steven Stamkos missing large chunks of time for the Bolts, it was Kucherov who stepped up and filled the void.
So who will Yzerman trade away? Don’t forget the upcoming Expansion Draft will play a big role in making a lot of these decisions, not just for Tampa but also for the Buffalo Sabres should Tim Murray decide to pick up the phone.
G Ben Bishop - 1 year remaining on contract, $5.95m cap hit. With playoffs star Andrei Vasilevskiy signed to a three-year extension this summer, Yzerman knows if he doesn’t trade Bishop he’s going to lose him in the expansion draft.
LHD Jason Garrison - 2 years remaining on contract, $4.6m cap hit. years is a prime trade candidate. Garrison is 31 and was on the second defensive pair for the Bolts. He’s on the downward swing now, but has hit the 30pts mark twice in the last three seasons. He can make a decent exit pass to get the forwards going, is big and smart.
LW - Jonathan Drouin - 1 year remaining on entry-level contract. Drouin has had some drama with Yzerman this last season, but quietly worked his way back up from the Syracuse Crunch, and had 14pts in 17 playoff games filling in for Stamkos.
C - Valtteri Filppula - 2 years remaining, $5m cap hit. The 32-year-old veteran is in decline, but is still a very effective third-line center and role player. However, the price is steep.
Or will a bold General Manager from one of the other NHL teams make the bold move of putting out an offer sheet for Kucherov and/or Namestnikov and take the decision out of Yzerman’s hands?