Tampa Bay Lightning should prioritize re-signing Alex Killorn over Tanner Jeannot

TAMPA, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 08: Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal during a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Amalie Arena on November 08, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 08: Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal during a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Amalie Arena on November 08, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning are holding out hope that Alex Killorn, currently a pending Unrestricted Free Agent, will return next season.

While both parties want to continue together, the salary cap could force Killorn to look elsewhere. CapFriendly currently lists the team as having $7,325,000 of salary cap room with a 17-player roster for next season. I am also assuming that number will move closer to $8.5 million with 16 players if Phil Myers is waived to start the season, allowing part of his $1.4 million cap hit to be buried.

  1. Now just how much could Killorn command? AFP Analytics lists Killorn’s contract projection at four years with a $5.25 million AAV — a sizable chunk of what the team has left to work with. We will assume that this is his free agent market value.

With Killorn’s stated interest in remaining a Bolt, there could certainly be a discount in play for what he is willing to take to remain in Tampa, but expectations should be tempered on anything drastic. He put up the best numbers of his career the past two seasons and will want to cash in, possibly for the last time, as he will be 34 years old when the season starts.

Keeping Killorn salary cap scenario

To run through a scenario, let’s assume a) Myers is indeed waived, giving the team $8.475 million cap room, and b) Killorn can be signed at a $4.2 million AAV — maybe the Lightning give him an extra year from the projected contract to compensate for the lower AAV. That would leave the team with $4.275M in cap space that could be allocated along the lines of the following.

  • Fourth line center — $1 million
  • Backup goalie — $800K
  • Cole Koepke — $775K
  • Gabe Fortier — $775K
  • Any additional player — $925K remaining salary cap room

Similar to the beginning of the 2021-22 season, the Lightning were in a tight cap situation that saw them deploy then-prospects Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh in the lineup. Koepke and Fortier both already have NHL experience, and after three seasons with Syracuse, they are ready to take on bottom-six roles in the NHL full-time. Even if the Lightning look to move them before the trade deadline, like Katchouk and Raddysh were, replacements would not have to cost anything extraordinary.

A fourth line center and backup goalie should not break the bank here, and there is still a healthy amount left to spend on another player to bring the roster up to 22 players, an ideal amount in the Lightning’s situation.

Additionally, Alex Barre-Boulet could be substituted with either Koepke or Fortier, and he carries a $758,333 cap hit this coming season.

If it comes down to it, keep Alex Killorn over Tanner Jeannot

Now this does notably leave out Tanner Jeannot, but that would be the cost of keeping Killorn. Yes, the Lightning paid an arm and a leg for Jeannot and did not get what they would have hoped for as an injury and a first-round playoff exit saw his first year with the Lightning end at just 23 games, scoring one goal and adding three assists.

However, that does not mean the Lightning should attempt to re-sign him instead of keeping Killorn in hopes that he will live up to the price that was paid for him. Projected at $2.085M AAV x 2 years by AFP Analytics, he would prevent Killorn from staying in the above scenario.

Jeannot had a good 2022 season before falling off with the Nashville Predators last year. The Lightning tried to see if a change of scenery would bring back the player that scored 41 points in 81 games, but it did not.

Sure, the Lightning could hope having Jeannot spend a full season with the team in 2023-24 will bring different results by the end of the season, but that is no guarantee. Instead, they should bet on their long-time player Killorn — even if age is concern — rather than hoping Jeannot becomes something more than a fourth or third line forward he was with the team last season.

Killorn is a key member of the locker room, can play anywhere within the top-six and was the fourth most utilized forward on the team last season. Losing him would leave the Lightning with a larger hole in the lineup than if they were to let Jeannot walk. And with limited cap space, and a depleted amount of future draft picks, the ability to make big swings at the trade deadline to fill that hole may not be there, as it has been before.

So please, do not let Alex Killorn walk if it becomes a decision between keeping him or Tanner Jeannot.

Free agency will open on July 1, at noon EST. There is no deadline by when the Lightning must re-sign Killorn, but once free agency is open, he is free to sign with any of the 31 other teams in the league.

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