For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it feels extremely difficult to imagine being able to re-sign both Alex Killorn and Ross Colton. With just over $8 million in expected cap space, the Lightning have seven Free Agents, five of which are unrestricted, and the money is going to go quickly.
Killorn and Colton’s situations are very different. Killorn is a veteran who is unrestricted and coming off of consecutive career years. At 33 years old, Killorn does not have many pay days left and is deserving of a raise on his previous contract of just over $4 million per year. Colton is restricted in that the Lightning are in control but Colton also has rights to arbitration. Colton also is due for a raise on his previous deal.
Obviously their situations are different, but the Lightning ultimately are not in a place in which they can bring them both back, at least at the dollar amounts they deserve.
Leaving contract lengths of both aside, let’s say hypothetically you commit $6 million in total to both of them beginning next year. You are then only left with between $2-3 million this summer to spend on the rest of the roster. That is without re-signing Tanner Jeannot . That is also without signing a new backup goaltender or upgrading on defense or forward on the open market. To say the numbers would be tough to make work would be an understatement.
Killorn could probably get a deal similar to what Ondrej Palat got on the open market last summer. Palat got five years times $6 million per year. Killorn is a couple years older than Palat was so he may not be able to get as long of a deal but that is probably a similar value.
As for Colton, the Lightning have until after the draft at the end of June to extend their qualifying offer. Both sides will surely try to make something work but if it appears Colton commands more money than the Lightning are willing to pay then the Lightning will have to explore trading his rights. Trading him would be an attempt to avoid losing him for nothing like when they lost Carter Verhaeghe for nothing in 2020.
The Lightning probably would prefer to keep Colton around the same number they signed Nick Paul to last summer. Paul signed for $3.15 per season and this is probably a similar number to what is reasonable for Colton.
Ultimately it feels as though the only way these two both get re-signed is if Killorn takes a significant pay cut from what he could get on the open market. If the Lightning pay both of these players close to what they are worth then there will likely be little to no money left over.
There is also a scenario in which both could not be back. Not having either come back would allow significant cap flexibility and could allow the Lightning to be bigger spenders in free agency than expected. If I had to say right now, I think at least one of these guys will be back and one of them will have a new home.