While news out of Tampa Bay has been extremely quiet, many fans are waiting for the Lightning to get their offseason underway. The team has three key restricted free agents, including Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak, that it must deal with and little to no cap room with which to work with.
In his most recent mailbag, The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required) writes that with no confirmation yet on when the season will start, most teams have taken a break, leaving the Lightning with moves to make and no one to turn to until training camps get underway at some point. Much of that speculation points to whether Tampa Bay can find a taker for forward Tyler Johnson and the four years at $5MM AAV. The team was not able to find a trade partner at the start of the offseason and no team attempted to claim him when the Lightning put Johnson on waivers.
With rumors that teams are demanding a first-round pick to take Johnson off their hands, Smith writes that the Lightning have little interest in doing that considering they already traded away their 2021 second-rounder. It is possible if the Lightning can’t find an alternative solution, that they might have to retain some salary in order to trade him. Johnson, who has a full no-trade clause, has given the team eight or nine teams he’s willing to go to, but so far the team has had no luck finding a taker. Even if the Lightning can find a trade partner to take all of Johnson’s $5MM AAV, the team is also likely to make other moves to get all three RFA’s under contract.
- In a Q&A with Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, The Athletic’s Max Bultman (subscription required) gets the head coach to comment on the team’s potential lineup when the 2020-21 season starts. One interesting nugget in the interview is that Blashill said he wants to take a look at Robby Fabbri at the center position. “I’m intrigued by giving Robby Fabbri an opportunity to play center too. So we’ll see, we’ll see where the best fit is. But the fact he can do it, I think is a real positive to have on your roster,” said Blashill. Although more roster moves are possible, it is believed that there are a number of players who will vie for the second-line center position. Fabbri had a solid campaign last year with 14 goals and 31 points in 52 games and could be ready to return to the center position where he played before injury history began.
- The Athletic’s Arpon Basu (subscription required) looks at the play of 20-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who is currently playing for his hometown team of Assat in Finland’s Liiga. The forward went scoreless in his first four games before getting his first point. He now has three assists in seven games, but is still looking for his first goal. While the numbers aren’t there, Basu writes that Kotkaniemi is still trying to adjust to Finland’s top league where every team they play is completely focused on him, something he hasn’t had to deal with in his two years in the NHL. Adjusting back to the Liiga after two years on North America’s smaller rinks also has been an adjustments for a player who was enjoying doling out hits in the NHL. That’s much harder to do in the larger rinks where a hit could take him out of the play too, meaning he can’t really work on that part of his game much.