It was only a matter of time before the Lightning made a move to get cap compliant for the upcoming season. That move has now been made as they shipped defenseman Braydon Coburn, center Cedric Paquette, and a 2022 second-round pick to Ottawa in exchange for Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson. Both teams have announced the move.
Recent contracts to Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, and Anthony Cirelli pushed Tampa Bay well above the $81.5MM cap ceiling, even with winger Nikita Kucherov being ruled out for the entire regular season due to a hip injury. While Gaborik and Nilsson carry combined cap hits of $7.475MM, both have been ruled out for the season and can be added to their LTIR pool which now stands at $16.975MM with Kucherov’s deal included. By clearing out Coburn ($1.7MM) and Paquette ($1.65MM), the Lightning sit $15.816MM over the salary cap. With that amount being lower than their LTIR pool, they’re now back in cap compliance.
Meanwhile, the Senators pick up a pair of veterans for two players they weren’t going to be able to use this season anyway while recouping a second-rounder to replace the one they parted with yesterday to acquire Derek Stepan from Arizona.
Coburn becomes the elder statesman of Ottawa’s back end. The 35-year-old played in 40 games for Tampa Bay last season, picking up a goal and three assists while averaging 14:03 per game. He had a limited role in their Stanley Cup run, suiting up just three times. The pending unrestricted free agent will likely have a depth role in Ottawa though he will serve as injury insurance.
As for Paquette, the 27-year-old has been an effective fourth-line energy player for the Lightning the last several years. In 2019-20, he had one of his better offensive seasons, notching seven goals and 11 assists in 61 games; his assist total was a new career-high. He will bring some more physicality to Ottawa’s lineup, an element they have brought in quite a bit of this offseason in winger Austin Watson plus blueliners Erik Gudbranson and Josh Brown. Paquette is also slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Tampa Bay’s clear preference this offseason was to try to clear Tyler Johnson’s $5MM price tag as evidenced by the fact they put him on waivers back in October after they couldn’t find a taker for him in a trade. While that one fell through, this is a pretty good Plan B for Julien BriseBois who was able to get the team back to compliance without having to trade a core player away due to Kucherov’s injury. There will still be work to be done as with $85MM in commitments for 2021-22 already, they’re already over the expected cap for 2021-22 which should be at or very close to the current $81.5MM Upper Limit. But that’s a problem for another day; for now, they’re good to go.