Lightning 5 on 4: Free Agent Frenzy

There has been plenty of moves throughout the league via free agency and trade since the new league year began on Friday. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, however, it’s a continued quest – albeit, unsuccessfully – to free up cap space.

They were able to bring back a few players on smaller deals and they issued qualifying offers to a number of restricted free agents but there’s still a black cloud looming overhead.

Let’s dive in to a little five-on-four.

Should I stay…

1.) Pat Maroon – Maroon is back in town, folks. He agreed to a two year deal to remain a member of the Lightning for an AAV of $900,000. He was certainly a key member of the team in their quest to win a Stanley Cup and had publicly stated he’d be willing to take less if it meant he got to stay. That’s exactly what he did.

2.) Luke Schenn – Another key player for the Bolts, but one that was plagued with injury through much of the postseason. Schenn agreed to return on a one year, $800,000 deal. He was Victor Hedman‘s tag-team partner much of the season so it will be nice to see the duo continue to build on a rapport that looked good much of the season last year.

3.) Tyler Johnson? – Tyler Johnson was placed on waivers after the Lightning couldn’t find a trade that worked for them. Johnson then cleared waivers and remains a member of the Lightning – until he doesn’t. There’s plenty of interest around the league for Johnson’s services but teams are wanting a “sweetener” thrown in by the Bolts in order to take on Johnson’s four year, $5M AAV contract. Now, they could always make him available in the expansion draft after one season, in which he would be a $5M cap hit but only cost them $3.75M cash, but teams aren’t lining up to help the Lightning with their cap issues.

4.) Nikita Kucherov – Kuch wasn’t really in danger of going anywhere, but after Pierre LeBrun hinted at a “surprise candidate” being moved to clear cap, some believed that surprise could be Kuch. See, Kucherov’s no move clause didn’t kick in until the new league year began on Friday at noon. That meant that up until that point, the Lightning were free to move him wherever they wanted to without his permission. But alas, Kuch wasn’t moved and now has a full no move clause in full effect.

5.) Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak – Though they haven’t signed anything, all three received qualifying offers from the Lightning. That, of course, doesn’t mean they won’t leave should a team come knocking with a high dollar offer sheet that the Lightning can’t match, but all three are priorities for the Bolts to bring back. Sergachev has said that he doesn’t want to play anywhere else and wants to be in Tampa for his entire career. There is a strong desire on both sides to remain together and it appears that will indeed happen barring any unforseen circumstances.

…Or Should I Go, Now?

1.) Kevin Shattenkirk – Shattenkirk came in on a small deal for a year thanks to the buyout from the New York Rangers. It won’t happen again, despite Julien BriseBois’ best efforts. The Lightning offered Shattenkirk a three year deal with an AAV of $2M but he would go on to sign a three year deal for an AAV of $3M with the Anaheim Ducks to be on their top defensive pairing and quarterback their power play. Happy for Shatty, sad for the Lightning.

2.) Carter Verhaeghe – The Lightning tried to get a deal worked out with Verhaeghe but couldn’t get it done. That is surprising when you see that he signed a two year deal worth $1M AAV with the Florida Panthers. You would think the Lightning could have gotten something similar done, but we don’t know the circumstances of the negotiations. Perhaps the Lightning only offered one year while Verhaeghe was looking for longer term. Either way, he will be missed.

3.) Zach Bogosian – I would have loved to see Bogo return, but he turned a short stint and a Stanley Cup into a one year, $1M deal with division rival Toronto. Bogo did well with Hedman in Schenn’s absence and the Lightning reportedly offered him a similar deal as Toronto but Bogo opted to leave.

4.) Braydon Coburn? – Coburn was approached by the Bolts to waive or modify his no trade clause in order for them to facilitate a deal and relieve themselves of $1.7M in cap. Coburn only has the one year left, so it’s somewhat puzzling that they’d try to unload a somewhat affordable deal. However, they had a hard time finding room for him in the lineup while in the bubble so maybe they’re looking to unload the cap while trying to find a place where he’ll have more opportunity to play.

5.) Tyler Johnson? – Yeah, he’s still going to be moved on way or another. For now, he’s still a Bolt – but the clock is ticking.

Around The League

1.) Torey Krug – THANK GOODNESS this guy is out of Boston. Krug agreed to a massive deal with the St. Louis Blues and will replace long time captain Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo was apparently “caught off guard” by the deal for Krug, but he had his opportunity to return and didn’t. Blue moved on and I can’t say I blame them.

2.) Alex Pietrangelo – Speaking of which, it appears that Pietrangelo to Vegas is all but done. The Golden Knights have some serious cap work to do to get the contract done, but they are firmly in the driver’s seat for Pietrangelo’s services. He even went to Vegas to check out the community, schools, facilities, etc.

3.) Goalie Frenzy – Henrik Lundqvist goes to the Capitals, Braden Holtby heads to the Canucks, Matt Murray is traded to the Senators, Corey Crawford is with the Devils, Thomas Greiss is a Red Wing, Anton Khudobin stays in Dallas, and Jacob Markstrom is with the Flames. Yeah – it’s been a wild goalie market so far.

4.) Taylor Hall – Everyone wants to know where Taylor Hall is going. Basically, everyone is in on him except for Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Arizona. Even some murmurings over the weekend that the Bruins’ interest was heating up to bring in the former Hart Trophy winner. Hall is in no hurry and we may not see a decision for another week or so.

5.) T.J. Brodie – Brodie is a name Lightning fans will become familiar with real fast. He signed a four year deal with an AAV of $5M with the Toronto Maple Leafs as they continue to try and break the slump of first round playoff exits. The lefty defenseman has 266 career points with the Flames and will bring some much needed offense to Toronto’s blue line.

Remaining Questions

1.) What about Killer? Alex Killorn hasn’t been talked about much this off-season, despite having a modified no trade clause. I fully expected him to be the first one out the door but instead that appears to still be Tyler Johnson if JBB can get a deal worked out. You would think that coming off his first career 20-goal season that Killorn’s trade value has never been higher, but it’s crickets around the winger.

2.) Is a buyout happening? BriseBois said they weren’t interested in utilizing the buyout to clear cap room, but is that the direction we’re headed with Tyler Johnson? They can’t seem to get a trade in place, no one was willing to take on the contract with zero compensation headed to Tampa. There is still interest, but it may be easier – and best – to buy him out and move on.

3.) What are they doing on the back end? The Lightning are still woefully thin at defensemen. There’s Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Coburn, and Luke Schenn under contract now with the qualifying offers out there for Sergy and Cernak. They still need more help on the blue line even with the RFA’s returning. Is it finally time to see Cal Foote make his NHL debut? One would think that if that were the case, he would have been invited to join the bubble. There’s also Alex Green and newly re-signed Andreas Borgman in the pipeline.

4.) Another surgery. Steven Stamkos underwent another core surgery this past week. Turns out, the original core surgery was for a sports hernia on his right side. That complication he experienced in the bubble? A sports hernia on the left. He battled through as best he could but hernias are a complete nightmare. I’m shocked he played the 2:47 that he did. Either way, it’s been addressed now and the Lightning expect the captain to be ready for the start of the season.

5.) The season? Speaking of the start of the season, when in the world is that gonna be? Rumors and speculation now is that the season will begin on or around January 1. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to fit in a full slate of games and who knows if they’re going to try to work in a modified/regional bubble system. I doubt the players would go for it, but everything is on the table at the moment.

Final Shift

More Moves Coming Our Way