Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was on Tampa Bay radio today, and according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times indicated his interest in bringing Peter Budaj back as the team’s backup goaltender next season. While obviously no decision has been made, Smith relays that Budaj also seemed open to the idea at the end of the season.
Budaj was acquired at the trade deadline as part of a package in exchange for Ben Bishop, as the Lightning needed to move out enough salary so that Brayden Point and other’s performance bonuses wouldn’t affect their 2017-18 cap structure. He had played himself back into NHL consideration after injuries to both Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff to start the year in Los Angeles, and was part of the reason the Kings were even in contention as long as they were.
After the deal, Budaj had a bit of trouble in his four starts with the Lightning registering just a .898 save percentage but apparently doing enough to put himself in the conversation for next season. The 34-year old netminder earned just $600K this season and would likely only cost between $800K and $1.1MM for next year. The Lightning, who need all the cap space they can get as they try to re-sign Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, will be in need of a goaltender who makes as little as possible.
With Andrei Vasilevskiy starting his three-year extension that pays him just $3.5MM per season, the duo would be one of the cheapest in the league. With the savings they have in net, perhaps they can indeed keep the band together for a couple more seasons—before Nikita Kucherov’s deal is up and he gets another raise—and try for the Stanley Cup with this group.