The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to wrap up negotiations with their restricted free agents, this time signing Alexander Volkov to a one-year, one-way contract according to his agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the deal is worth $700K. The team has also announced a two-year, one-way contract for Mathieu Joseph which will carry an average annual value of $737,500.
Volkov, 23, is a very interesting player to watch this season in Tampa Bay, given how tight they are to the cap and how inexpensive he now will be. Selected 48th overall in 2017 he has done nothing but dominate at the minor league level, scoring 55 goals and 123 points in 195 games with the Syracuse Crunch since debuting in 2017. In 2019-20 he played nine games with the Lightning, scoring just a single point but flashing the same interesting mix of speed and skill that makes him dangerous in the minor leagues.
If you want to know how highly Volkov is regarded by the Lightning coaching staff and front office, remember that he dressed in a single playoff game this summer. That happened to be game six of the Stanley Cup Final, when Tampa Bay clinched a series win over the Dallas Stars to become champions.
Joseph meanwhile, who is also 23, actually already has 107 games under his belt with the Lightning and will get a chance to add to that total this season. The fourth-round pick from 2015 has a well-rounded game that can play up or down the lineup and he proved he could contribute offensively when given the chance in 2018-19. Joseph scored 13 goals and 26 points in 70 games with the Lightning that season, despite averaging just over 11 minutes a night. Though his offensive numbers dropped to just seven points in 37 games this year, he is still a valuable depth piece that the team now has locked up at a bargain price.
The Lightning may have cap problems that they need to sort out, but players like Volkov and Joseph represent exactly why they are such a tough organization to beat. They’ve built arguably the strongest player development pipeline in the entire league, which continues to churn out NHL-level talents each year out of mid-round picks or trade throw-ins. Even if they have to move on from some of their more high profile talents, they have the depth to fill out the roster internally (while also being an appealing destination for free agents).