The Tampa Bay Lightning won’t be placing Ryan Callahan on long-term injured reserve after all. The Lightning have traded the contract of the injured forward along with a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Mike Condon and a 2020 sixth-round pick. Callahan was diagnosed with a degenerative back disease and will not play again. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $5.8MM cap hit.
Like many trades involving the Senators recently, this deal is about saving money. While Callahan is owed $4.7MM this season much of that will likely be covered by insurance thanks to the career-ending injury. Condon meanwhile has a $3MM salary this season and the Senators did not plan on using him in the NHL given the re-signing of Anders Nilsson as the backup for Craig Anderson. The team also has several young goaltenders that need playing time in the minor leagues.
That situation also seems to be the case in Tampa Bay however, as the team now has four goaltenders on one-way contracts making at least $1.15MM. Curtis McElhinney is the presumed backup after signing a two-year $2.6MM deal in free agency, but now Condon and Louis Domingue are also in the fold. The Lightning also have Scott Wedgewood and Spencer Martin under contract for the minor leagues. The team will have to sort out who is going where to start the year, meaning more moves may be coming for the Lightning.
None of that however is the real issue being addressed for Tampa Bay. The team still has Brayden Point sitting as a restricted free agent (along with Adam Erne) but had very little cap space to get him signed. Though the team can go over the salary cap ceiling by up to 10% during the offseason, if they wanted to take full advantage of long-term injured reserve for Callahan’s cap hit they would have had to be compliant by the start of the season before designating him for LTIR. This transaction will remove that cap hit entirely giving the Lightning a good deal more flexibility to sign Point.
Tampa Bay now projects to have just under $9MM in cap space to get Point in and will obviously be burying at least two of their goaltenders before the start of the year if they are still with the organization. Fitting Point in even at a salary approaching $10MM wouldn’t be a problem, though it is still unclear how the two sides are going to approach his next contract. With Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning agreed to a three-year bridge deal after his entry-level contract expired which gave them a little more flexibility before locking him up long-term. They could do the same with Point, though the restricted free agent market has changed considerably since Kucherov signed his bridge deal in 2016.