The Tampa Bay Lightning might be currently watching the playoffs rather than playing in them, but Steve Yzerman is already working on his offseason plans. The GM has said his top priority this season is to lock up three core restricted free agents in Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin, which is expected to be quite a challenge, considering how up against the salary cap the Lightning are this offseason.
Tampa Bay Times writer Joe Smith suggests Yzerman might have trouble signing all three of them and acquire a top-four defenseman they desperately need and acquire a goaltender they need at the same time. That doesn’t include Victor Hedman’s $7.875MM extension that kicks in (and almost doubles) next year and the future contract they will have to negotiate with Nikita Kucherov in two years, which is likely to be huge.
Yzerman successfully helped Tampa Bay’s cap situation at the trade deadline when he moved the contracts of Ben Bishop ($4.76MM), Brian Boyle ($2MM) and Valtteri Filppula ($5MM). While all three were important to the Lightning, getting their cap numbers off their books only increased their chances of resigning the trio of young stars.
The scribe writes the Lightning should focus their efforts on resigning both Palat and Johnson who are integral to the team’s success and even went on to suggest that the team should consider trading the 22-year old Drouin, who enjoyed a breakout campaign this year. The thought being that Drouin may have the most trade value of the three and might net them a nice haul right before the 2017 NHL draft.
Smith also suggested other possibilities including looking to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, which has heavily scouted Tampa Bay in the last couple of months, as an option to move a player like Johnson as there is a potential replacement for him in rookie Brayden Point.
All said and done, Yzerman has his work cut out for him this offseason.
- The New York Islanders, also sitting home during the playoffs, need to focus their attention on re-signing star player John Tavares. The belief is that the Islanders naming Doug Weight the permanent coach was critical to get the 26-year old star to return. Weight, who served as interim coach since January, produced a successful second half for the Islanders as he posted the second-best NHL record during that time. Unfortunately, they fell short of reaching the playoffs, but it is believed that Weight’s return will only help in Tavares opting to return. Tavares, who led the team with 28 goals and 38 assists for 66 points, is in line for a potential 8-year, $100MM extension this summer. A free agent defection would be crippling to the Islanders’ franchise.
- The New York Rangers have recalled goaltender Magnus Hellberg for Game 3 of their playoff game with the Canadiens today. He will serve only as an emergency backup as the Hartford Wolf Pack just finished their regular season.