The Lightning played most of the season without star center Steven Stamkos and nearly snuck into the playoffs with a late season run with Nikita Kucherov scoring 40 goals and Victor Hedman registering a career-high 72 points.
Tampa has been the beneficiary of a well-stocked organization under GM Steve Yzerman, but a number of players in need of new contracts and cannot protect the entire core group that got to a Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and Eastern Conference Final in 2016.
There was some thought that Tampa might ask veteran Ryan Callahan (who like Stamkos missed most of last season due to injury) to waive his no-movement clause in order to protect another Lightning forward, but no such request was made before Monday’s deadline.
Alex Killorn, who signed a contract extension last July and scored a career-high 19 goals, could have been exposed because he has six years remaining making $4.45 Million per season. Killorn’s vulnerability changed with the Lightning traded Drouin to Montreal today for Mikhail Sergachev.
Tampa’s blueline is an area where Yzerman is focusing most of his effort in upgrading this summer. Hedman and defense partner Anton Stralman will be protected, but the Lightning could go in a number of directions in the third spot.
Vegas is more likely to pass over aging veterans Jason Garrison ($4.6 Million) and Braydon Coburn ($3.7 Million), who have short term remaining on their deals, in favor of youngsters Jake Dotchin or Slater Koekkoek.
Newly acquired Sergachev is exempt.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was given the reins after the trade of Bishop to Los Angeles and will be the starter in Tampa for the foreseeable future. Kristers Gudlevskis, who was the #1 for the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, did not play during the Crunch’s Calder Cup run because the Lightning hope that they can get the 24-year-old past the expansion draft to have him be Vasilevskiy’s backup next season.
Projected protected players and their cap hits
Steven Stamkos (NMC) – $8,500,000 through 2024
Ryan Callahan (NMC) – $5,800,000 through 2020
Nikita Kucherov – $4,766,667 through 2019
Alex Killorn – $4,450,000 through 2023
Vladislav Namestnikov – $1,937,500 through 2018
Ondrej Palat – $3,333,333 RFA
Tyler Johnson – $3,333,333 RFA
Victor Hedman (NMC) – $7,875,000 through 2025
Anton Stralman – $4,500,000 through 2019
Jake Dotchin – $616,667 RFA
Andrei Vasilevskiy – $3,500,000 through 2020
Likely Expansion loss for Tampa Bay
The two most likely selections off the Lightning roster are Koekkoek, and Coburn.
If Tampa were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why?
Tampa needed cap space to re-sign Johnson and/or Palat this summer. They traded Drouin and if they want to create some more space, they might be willing to send one of their many prospects to the Golden Knights to clear Garrison or Coburn’s salary off the books.