The Tampa Bay Lightning got through the NHL Draft and have yet to deal any of their big names rumored to be on the move.
Tyler Johnson has given the Bolts a list of teams that he’s willing to help facilitate a deal to while Alex Killorn has his trade clause shifted from a no trade to a modified trade – meaning there is a list of teams he doesn’t have to approve a deal to and the Lightning are free to engage in talks with. There is also speculation that a bigger name – like Ryan McDonagh, Yanni Gourde, even potentially Steven Stamkos – could be the one on the way out.
While I personally don’t buy into the Stamkos speculation, it appears almost anything is on the table. The Lightning’s alleged list of untouchables is just four players – Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Don’t gain any false hope, though. A deal or two is imminent. Someone that Lightning fans love will be suiting up for another organization in the 2020-21 season. There’s no other way around it.
Now, while it’s unfortunate that it has to happen – and who knows what kind of shape they would be in if the salary cap had increased rather than stayed flat – but it’s essentially a good problem to have. It means that your roster is so good, top to bottom, that good or even great players have to be moved in order to free up space for more great players on the rise.
The Lightning have addressed that in the form of qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.
The players that received offers from the Lightning ahead of the deadline were Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Mathieu Joseph, Ross Colton, Dominik Mason, Ben Thomas, and Alex Volkov.
Noticeably absent from that list is Carter Verhaeghe who was not given a qualifying offer along with Dennis Yan and Devante Stephens.
The Lightning also re-signed Mitchell Stephens to a two year, one way contract.
Lightning GM Julien BriseBois said that the Lightning are still interested in bringing Verhaeghe back but they couldn’t agree to a deal and didn’t want to send a qualifying offer with arbitration rights as it wouldn’t be the best idea for the two sides.
In a cap crunch, not bringing Verhaeghe back is one of many difficult decisions BriseBois has to make while trying to put a roster together that has the opportunity to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. In a cap strapped year and a team that was already going to be pushing it with a raised cap number, this will be an extra difficult task for BriseBois and his staff.
Now that the draft is over, there isn’t a major rush to move anyone. The Lightning can go up to 10% over the cap as long as they’re compliant by the start of the season. If a team is eyeing certain players that will hit free agency on Friday and they miss out, that could be when talks for Johnson, Killorn, or other Lightning players could begin to heat up. Teams also know that the Bolts are in desperate need of clearing room so the offers may be on the lower end to start. BriseBois isn’t going to take a deal he doesn’t feel is right just to make the deal. He’s going to clear the cap space while also looking to build up the future of the team.
It’s a process, but things will start to really heat up when free agency kicks off on Friday and the dominoes begin to fall across the NHL.