Looking Into the Lightning’s Crystal Ball

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said yesterday, “We will increase our payroll.” Of course he wasn’t specific as to how this would happen, but with the Lightning making it to the Eastern Conference Final, his “methodical” approach may have to change. Tampa Bay is a good and competitive team and much of the time, the window to winning a Stanley Cup closes fast. Yzerman’s task is a difficult one:  Assemble a talented squad that will compete for the Stanley Cup while maintaining team chemistry, all while being fiscally responsible.

Keep in mind that the combined salaries of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Pavel Kubina, Ryan Malone and Mattias Ohlund will make up roughly half of the projected $60 million salary cap.

The Lightning will be looking to add a mobile blue-liner and a power play quarterback while sorting out the goaltending situation.

The NHL salary cap could rise as high as $60 million. The Bolts have $36.55 million in actual salary committed to 11 players and buyouts of Todd Fedoruk and Vaclav Prospal. Here is what the Bolts salary cap numbers look like currently:

Tampa Bay Lightning Salary Cap Chart


NMC – No Movement Clause
NTC – No Trade Clause
EL – Entry Level Contract
UFA – Unrestricted Free Agent (The free agency period begins on the first day of July. At that point, an unrestricted free agent is free to negotiate and sign a contract with any NHL team.)
RFA – Restricted Free Agent (Current team must extend a “qualifying offer” to a restricted free agent by July 1 to retain negotiating rights to that player.)

NHL 2011 Free Agent Compensation Chart
I
f a RFA player signs an offer sheet, his current team has seven days to match the contract offer and keep the player or else he goes to the team that gave the offer sheet, with compensation going to his first team.

An offer with a $1,034,249 annual cap hit or less: No compensation
More than $1,034,249 — $1,567,043: Third-round pick
More than $1,567,043 — $3,134,088: Second-round pick
More than $3,134,088 — $4,701,131: First and third-round pick
More than $4,701,131 — $6,268,175: First, second and third-round pick
More than $6,268,175 — $7,835,219: Two first-round picks, a second and third
More than $7,835,219 and higher: Four first-round picks

Overview

Steve Yzerman’s number one priority is to re-sign Steven Stamkos by the July 1 deadline. If you have heard any reports stating that the Lightning will let Stamkos become an unrestricted free agent…DON’T BELIEVE THEM! Stamkos has been quoted many times stating that he has made Tampa Bay his home and he is happy with the organization. Look for the Bolts to sign their young superstar at a salary around $7 million per year for more than five years. He will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

The goaltending situation is not so simple. Both Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith are UFA’s. Both have publicly stated that they are willing to return, but Yzerman’s hands may be tied as the duo may be too expensive of a package. Mike Smith would have to be open to taking a pay cut for this to happen. If the Bolts GM decides to keep just one, look for Roloson to stay and  an affordable free agent to be the back up. The Bolts are deep in goaltending with prospects Cedrick Desjardins and Dustin Tokarski, but both need more seasoning and Desjardins, a free agent himself, is coming off late season shoulder surgery and may not be ready by training camp. Yzerman may look to a high end free agent to put between the pipes and let both the aging Roloson and Smith go. Available free agent goalies of interest include Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun.

Defenseman Eric Brewer is an interesting case. While he was solid and provided an experienced blue line presence for the Lightning, he probably will be able to get a nice raise in salary on the open market. This may make him unaffordable to Yzerman and Tampa Bay.

Simon Gagne had an unproductive start to the season and missed much of the regular season due to injury. He showed his worth as he scored eight goals and had 27 points in 30 games after the All-Star break. Gagne is an absolute playoff stud ans was an integral part of the Lightning’s run to the Eastern Conference Final, netting five goals and seven assists in 15 games. Because of Gagne’s high salary, he may be a cap casualty. Yzerman may not be able to fit a $5 million, 60 game, and 40 point forward into his plans.

Tampa Bay will likely re-sign playoff stars Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim. Both had breakout playoff performances and will merit raises, but both forwards remain affordable.

It will be interesting to see if GM Yzerman can continue his ‘Golden Touch’ when it comes to signing free agents and making trades.

Click here for a complete and sortable list of free agents.

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*Salary and cap information courtesy of CapGeek.com

 

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About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?

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