The past few days have been arguably the most defining days in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s franchise since winning the 2004 Stanley Cup. The talk of the NHL all season has been; who will win the Steven Stamkos free agency sweepstakes? The answer: Tampa Bay. To add on to the signing of Steven Stamkos; Victor Hedman, the franchise defenseman, was handed an 8 year extension today and the future starting goalie for the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was extended for 3 years.
Stamkos, now 26, is in the prime of his career and was by far the most talented player without a contract for the 2016-2017 season in the NHL. With the potential for other teams to offer him up to 10-13 million dollars per season starting July 1st; Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had the tough decision at the trade deadline, in March, to trade him and get value in return, or risk losing him for nothing to take a run at the Stanley Cup. In a similar situation, Yzerman had to make the same decision all year long with troubled 2013 3rd overall pick, Jonathan Drouin. Yzerman elected to roll the dice and trust his instinct, and declined to discuss a trade for either.
Fast forward to July 1st, and the Lightning have made 4 key moves.
So what is left for the Lightning? Despite all of this, there is still an immense amount of work to be done in order to re-sign several key players this year and next year. Luckily, I love data and I’ll do my best to break it down for you, and project which of your favorite Tampa Bay Lightning players will come and go over the next year!
The Lightning currently have to re-sign Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Alex Killorn and Nikita Nesterov this year. Their current cap space is $13m. It is likely Kucherov will require $6.5M/y, Killorn 4.5M/y, with Nesterov and Namestnikov eating up around 3M/y combined. Here is how I believe it will likely shake-out.
First, bid farewell to Lightning goalie Ben Bishop who at 5.9M/y will attract plenty of attention on the trade block with Andrei Vasilevskiy growing into the Lightning’s starting goaltender position this year. This move would bring the Lightning’s cap space to 19M/y and allow the following.
With just 4M in cap for the following summer in 2017, the Lightning have fan favorites Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin to re-sign. So what happens now? With so much money tied up already, it means a likely departure through trade, or contracts not being renewed for Jason Garrison, Valtteri Filppula, Brian Boyle and Andrej Sustr. This saves Tampa 13M along with the 7.5M Johnson, Palat, and Drouin currently make. With 20.5M to work with, and the rest of the roster already filled out, its possible the Tampa Bay Lightning will miraculously be able to retain all of its talent. If Steve Yzerman can continue to do what was seemingly impossible, a Stanley Cup is waiting in the near future for what is hands down the most talented team in the NHL going forward.