Tampa Bay Lightning Have Two Pieces of Business Left

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 24: Brandon Hagel #38 and Steven Stamkos #91 celebrate the first period goal by Cal Foote #52 of the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on April 24, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 24: Brandon Hagel #38 and Steven Stamkos #91 celebrate the first period goal by Cal Foote #52 of the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on April 24, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The NHL offseason has reached the point of “no man’s land”. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, their offseason work is likely just about over, at least as far as this upcoming season is concerned. Two big pieces of business now loom over the summertime and those are potential extensions for Steven Stamkos and Brandon Hagel who will both be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of this upcoming season.

Both players have been eligible for extensions since free agency opened on July 1. But with the Lightning having so many free agents and decisions to make this summer, future deals for Stamkos and Hagel have been put on the back burner. After Tanner Jeannot re-signed, the Lightning now have a chance to somewhat look ahead to potential new deals.

Tampa Bay Has Made this a Priority Before

In recent years, the Lightning have made it a priority to get their top players signed before hitting Unrestricted Free Agency. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy all signed long-term deals in the summer before becoming free agents.

Last summer alone saw Tampa Bay re-sign Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev to long-term deals before entering the final season of their current deals. All three of these guys signed on the first day of eligibility too.

Stamkos and Hagel also do not seem to fall into the sort of “second tier” of the Lightning core that saw aging pieces like Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat leave for nothing once reaching free agency. Hagel will only be 25 once the season rolls around and likely has his best days still ahead and Steven Stamkos is still an extremely productive player at 33. Stamkos is also the captain and face of the franchise and surely is expected to continue to be so.

Who will Come off the Books Next Summer?

If Tampa Bay is to get these two players re-signed, their new deals of course would not count against the cap until next season. Besides Stamkos and Hagel, there are not any other real noteworthy pieces that would be coming off the Lightning pay roll and make a big difference toward the cap.

Defensemen Zach Bogosian and Calvin de Haan will both be free agents at the end of the season. If Tampa Bay elects to bring these players back or sign comparable replacements, they will likely be committing similar money to the position and therefore not changing the cap space much. Darren Raddysh will also be due for a new deal but likely will not command significant money. With the core all locked up, Tampa Bay could get ahead of next summer’s to-do list early depending on one ever-changing factor…

Cap Increase

The big caveat looming over all of this and likely part of the delay in any news is what sort of increase the salary cap will have next season. The cap is expected to go up by about $4 million next season after much smaller increases in recent year’s. We have been promised greater increases in the past and that is the reason for skepticism.

$4 million would be able to handle a good chunk of the money that Hagel would likely expect. If he has another season like he just did or better, he could be looking potentially double that number per season. Until there is more certainty that this will definitely be the expected cap increase, Tampa Bay will surely wait until they have a better idea. After all, management probably has a much better sense of the cap increase now than what peasants like us know.

Could Stamkos Take Less?

One of the big talking points on a Stamkos extension has been if he would be willing to take less money to save cap space and keep the team competitive. You could already argue that he did that on his most recent deal that is somehow already entering its final season. His $8.5 million cap hit per season is certainly less than he could have gotten on the open market while his career earnings are now nearly $100 million.

A potential comparable to Stamkos would be Anze Kopitar, who was extended to two additional years this summer with the Los Angeles Kings before becoming a UFA at the end of this season. Kopitar is about three years older than Stamkos but his new cap hit comes in at $7 million per season which is down from his previous deal of $10 million per season. Stamkos would of course benefit from a significantly better tax situation in Florida compared to that of California with Kopitar.

Stamkos’ production still probably means he can re-sign for similar numbers to what he is making now. If he is to take less money per season, it likely will not be by a whole lot as he is still a point-per-game player and just a year removed from the best season of his career points wise.

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