The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed another one of their key players to a long-term extension, inking Andrei Vasilevskiy to an eight-year contract that will carry a $9.5MM average annual value. The deal kicks in for the 2020-21 season. GM Julien BriseBois released a short statement on the signing:
The Lightning are very proud to extend Andrei for another eight years today. Since joining the organization Andrei has shown unmatched work ethic and professionalism both on and off the ice. We look forward to him continuing his career in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.
Vasilevskiy will become the third-highest paid goaltender in the league when the contract kicks in, behind only Carey Price ($10.5MM AAV) and Sergei Bobrovsky ($10MM AAV). The deal buys out seven years of unrestricted free agency and will include trade protection and a huge amount of signing bonuses. CapFriendly has the full breakdown of the contract:
- 2020-21: $3.5MM salary + $8.5MM signing bonus
- 2021-22: $1.0MM salary + $10.0MM signing bonus (NMC)
- 2022-23: $4.5MM salary + $6.5MM signing bonus (NMC)
- 2023-24: $4.0MM salary + $5.0MM signing bonus (NMC)
- 2024-25: $5.5MM salary + $4.5MM signing bonus (NMC)
- 2025-26: $5.0MM salary + $4.0MM signing bonus (10-team trade list)
- 2026-27: $5.0MM salary + $3.0MM signing bonus (10-team trade list)
- 2027-28: $3.0MM salary + $3.0MM signing bonus (10-team trade list)
With this contract, the 25-year old goaltender will tie Nikita Kucherov for the biggest cap hit on the Lightning and is just another sign the team is willing to commit to their core. Tampa Bay now has seven players signed through at least 2023-24, making their salary cap situation complicated moving forward. Brayden Point is expected to take up another huge chunk whenever he is re-signed, leaving very little room for other players like Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev who are all scheduled to become restricted free agents next summer. With Vasilevskiy under contract, the Lightning project to have more than $67MM committed to just 13 players in 2020-21.
That said, complication is more than acceptable for a player of Vasilevskiy’s talent. Selected 19th overall in 2012, the Russian goaltender has quickly ascended to the very elite tier of netminders in the league, leading the NHL in wins the past two seasons and taking home his first Vezina Trophy in 2019. He posted a .925 save percentage in 53 games and an incredible 39-10-4 record. His athleticism is nearly unparalleled at the position while his fundamentals are strong enough to keep him consistent on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, all that talent couldn’t save the Lightning from a first round sweep as he posted just an .856 save percentage in the four-game loss to Columbus.
That loss won’t change the fact that Tampa Bay believes they have one of the best goaltenders in the world, and he’ll now be paid as one. Vasilevskiy carries just a $3.5MM cap hit this season, allowing the team to bring in Curtis McElhinney to compete with Louis Domingue for the backup role and spend elsewhere on the roster. That all ends next season, when the Lightning will need to trim the fat elsewhere on the roster. Where exactly they will find that fat is unclear.
The team already has Ryan Callahan heading to long-term injured reserve this season, but his contract is completely off the books next summer. Players like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn will all likely hear their names in speculation at some point, though each holds trade protection. This deal and the other expensive extensions that have taken place will put a lot of pressure on the 2019-20 squad to compete for a Stanley Cup, because things are only going to get more complicated moving forward. At some point if the Lightning keep drafting and developing this exceptional talent, there will be cap casualties elsewhere. That only signifies an excellent roster, but is also very painful if some playoff success doesn’t follow.