No crew has been extra profitable over the previous six years than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Their win over the Dallas Stars within the Stanley Cup Final lastly gave this core the championship it wanted to validate all of that success.
They nonetheless have a powerhouse roster that goes to be a championship contender in the course of the 2020-21 season as nearly all of their core gamers stay signed to long-term offers. They are additionally going to proceed to get an enormous return on their commerce deadline strikes as complementary gamers like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow stay underneath contract for this season at a ridiculously low wage cap hit.
Thanks to that present contract state of affairs and the general energy of the Lightning roster they actually have not had to do a lot thus far this offseason.
They re-signed Patrick Maroon and Luke Schenn, misplaced Kevin Shattenkirk (Anaheim Ducks) and Zach Bogosian (Toronto Maple Leafs) to unrestricted free company, didn’t tender Carter Verhaeghe a qualifying supply and let him develop into an unrestricted free agent, and have largely remained the identical.
That will ultimately have to change in a roundabout way as a result of anyone on this roster goes to have to go.
Salary cap crunch and restricted free company
The Lightning at the moment sit simply $2.895 million under the NHL’s wage cap and solely have 18 gamers underneath contract for this upcoming season.
They not solely have to fill out the rest of their roster, but they have two of probably the most vital restricted free brokers within the NHL to take care of. Those gamers can be defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and ahead Anthony Cirelli. Unless they’re ready to get them signed to wildly team-friendly contracts, every of their new offers individually can be sufficient to put them over the cap.
They not solely have to re-sign each, but additionally restricted free agent Eric Cernak and doubtless add one other depth ahead and defenseman.
[Related: Keeping Khudobin highlight of Stars’ offseason after reaching Stanley Cup Final]
If there have been ever a crew weak to a suggestion sheet, this needs to be the crew.
Sergachev and Cirelli are incredible gamers, and if a crew with cap house and the required draft decide capital might agree to a take care of one (or each?) of them it could definitely put the Lightning in a bind when it comes to matching. It would both pressure them right into a commerce (possibly a foul one?) elsewhere on the roster, or pressure them to hand over a proficient younger participant.
But apart from Montreal’s failed try at signing Sebastian Aho greater than a 12 months in the past it’s simply not one thing that occurs within the NHL fairly often. Getting a participant to agree to the supply sheet, and their present crew not having the ability to match (or being unwilling to match) simply makes it a tough path.
Still, even when the Lightning don’t have to fear about an affords sheet they nonetheless have to create a major quantity of wage cap house.
Somebody has to go
It is tempting to surprise what the Lightning might get for a participant like, say, Steven Stamkos, given that they simply gained the Stanley Cup with out him. But let’s be life like right here, that is simply not going to occur (nor ought to it, I don’t assume).
The almost certainly candidates to go stay one among Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, or Ondrej Palat, nearly definitely in that most popular order. Maybe Yanni Gourde, but the best way he immediately linked with Coleman and Goodrow to kind that line within the playoffs ought to make maintaining him a precedence.
Each of them carries sufficient wage that buying and selling even one among them ought to most likely give the Lightning sufficient house to re-sign everybody with out shedding a core participant elsewhere on the roster.
The Lightning have already made it fairly clear which is their most popular possibility.
It is Johnson.
One of the primary strikes the they made this offseason was to place Johnson on waivers, wanting to see if anybody would declare him and take away his $5 million wage cap hit from the books.
No one took the bait. No one was prepared to bail the Lightning out of their wage cap crunch.
That leaves Tampa Bay able now the place it could have to retain wage or throw in a sweetener within the type of a draft decide or participant to get somebody to take that contract off their palms. Johnson continues to be a very good participant, but the $5 million cap hit for subsequent three seasons for a 30-year-old ahead is simply too wealthy for a cap-strapped crew in a flat-cap league. That additionally limits the potential commerce companions.
Trading one of many RFA’s (Sergachev or Cirelli) shouldn’t be thought-about. They are each too good, too younger, and too worthwhile to commerce away.
In the tip the Lightning are going to lose a very good participant, but so long as they have the core of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Stamkos, and the remainder of their complementary components that has come by their organizational pipeline they will stay one of many league’s high Stanley Cup contenders.
Adam Gretz is a author for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or observe him on Twitter @AGretz.