Taking Advantage of Cap Hell: Tampa Bay Lightning Edition

Steve Yzerman

This is going to be a difficult summer for many teams thanks to a salary cap which has risen by less than expected early in the year. For a team like the Edmonton Oilers, there’s a chance to land talent from a team in cap trouble.

Taking Advantage of Cap Hell is dedicated to looking at clubs reportedly in cap trouble and figuring out who might shake loose. Today our focus turns to one of the four teams still fighting for the Stanley Cup: the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Previously in this series:

The Depth Chart

Tampa Bay’s roster isn’t quite carved in stone, but it’s pretty close. The questions are mostly related to lower-end guys around the edges, a handful of restricted and unrestricted free agents whose contracts are up.

Next year’s team currently shapes up to look something like the following.

Left Wing Centre Right Wing L. Defence / Goal R. Defence / Goal
Alex Killorn Steven Stamkos Ryan Callahan Victor Hedman Anton Stralman
$2,550,000 $7,500,000 $5,800,000 $4,000,000 $4,500,000
Ondrej Palat Tyler Johnson Nikita Kucherov Braydon Coburn Jason Garrison
$3,333,000 $3,333,000 $894,000 $4,500,000 $4,600,000
Jonathan Drouin Valtteri Filppula Cedric Paquette Matt Carle Andrej Sustr
$3,194,000 $5,000,000 $925,000 $5,500,000 RFA
Vlad Namestnikov Brian Boyle J.T. Brown Nikita Nesterov Mark Barberio
RFA $2,000,000 $950,000 $925,000 RFA
  Jon Marchesseault Retained (Gagner) Ben Bishop Andrei Vasilevskiy
  RFA $1,600,000 $5,950,000 $1,475,000

Total Cap Hit: $68.5 million

Total Cap Space Remaining: $2.5 million

None of Tampa Bay’s free agents should be too terribly difficult to sign; Andrej Sustr is probably the most important of the lot but while he’s a fine young player he shouldn’t break the bank at this point in his career. Given the bonus cushion space the team has with Jonathan Drouin’s deal (there’s some risk in using that, of course) the Lightning should be able to sign everyone, even with Ben Bishop’s pricey extension kicking in. It’s tight, but doable.

So why do the Bolts make this list? Because while things are going to be tight now, they get worse in the near future. Steven Stamkos will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, and is due for a raise from his current $7.5 million cap hit; the Lightning will also have several RFA’s to deal with, including Nikita Kucherov. The year after that, Victor Hedman hits free agency and will be looking at a big bump from $4.0 million; simultaneously Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat will see their deals expire.

The Lightning are a well-run team, and it’s a reasonable guess that they might be looking to shed a bit of salary this summer to ease both the immediate (they shouldn’t go into Drouin’s cap cushion if they can help it) and mid-term cap issues.

Targets for Edmonton

Tampa Bay has a couple of interesting goalies, but no pressing need to make a decision there and the smart money says they won’t. What the Bolts may be willing to do is talk about some of their expensive defencemen; they have young players on the way up and moving out one contract would make everything easier.

We can rule out Hedman and Stralman as players of interest because the Bolts simply have no reason to move them. Hedman is a 24-year-old franchise defenceman getting paid $4.0 million. Stralman, age 28, has been a lovely fit on the top pairing at the bargain price of $4.5 million. Steve Yzerman must look at that duo and pinch himself just to be sure he’s not dreaming. We can also rule out the cheap guys; Nesterov is a 22-year-old offensive defenceman and 6’7” Sustr has taken on increased responsibility in the playoffs, matching both Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle in terms of ice time.

The three players who might make sense in a deal are 30-year-olds Carle, Coburn and Jason Garrison. All are pricey, not old but getting there, and at least one will be bumped down to the third pairing next season.

Carle has three years left at a $5.5 million cap hit, and has had some issues in the postseason. He has played tough minutes in the playoffs, both in terms of competition and zone starts. He’s largely played tough minutes over the last few years, and with the exception of a difficult 2013-14 has done pretty well in them. He plays in all situations, but his power play role has been steadily reduced in favour of Hedman, Stralman and Garrison; his offence has fallen with it.

Coburn has a single year left on his deal, at a $4.5 million cap hit. He was a pricey trade deadline upgrade, costing the Lightning first and third round picks as well as a tough 24-year-old defenceman with a magnificent beard (Radko Gudas). He’s had some playoff struggles (again in tough minutes), but he’s a big, tough shutdown defenceman. Tampa Bay would be trading him at a significant asset loss, and he might look a lot better with a full training camp with the team.

Garrison has three years left on his deal at $4.6 million, though his actual salary is much lower (averaging just over $3.5 million over the duration of the contract) and that will have value to a Tampa Bay team that still needs to be fiscally responsible. Yzerman somehow conned Vancouver into trading Garrison and a seventh-round pick in exchange for just a second round selection. Garrison did a fine job in second-pairing work and has been Tampa Bay’s No. 3 over their current playoff run; of this trio of defenceman my guess is that he’s the least likely to be dealt over the summer, though a trade is still conceivable.

It’s not a certainty, but it’s a reasonable guess that the Lightning may shop a defenceman over the summer, with Carle likely the name at the top of their list. If they do, Edmonton would be well-advised to make a serious play for whichever defender shakes loose, as all of Carle, Coburn and Garrison are competent top-four defenceman who would bolster the Oilers’ blue line significantly.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • D

    I like the Lightning’s offensive style of play. It is a good mix with Edmonton’s philosophy. So if the Oil pry any players out of that organization, they could very likely be a good fit.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nothing there for me.

    Should be interesting to see what happens with Stamkos at the trade deadline next year. Have to think he’ll be moved then with him wanting to see whats out there as a UFA. The Leafs are going to make Steven a very rich man in July of 2016.

    • John Chambers

      True. But they do have an expensive D – corps as a whole despite Hed and Stral being on great contracts. Callahan is a bit of a stretch at $5.8 but in general this is a well managed team.

    • Oilcounty88

      Callahans deal looks pretty ugly. 5.8 million for a guy with one goal in the playoffs. Not sure I’d be that happy with that deal. Reminds me alot of the Shawn Horcoff situation where he was an average player who was the top offensive player on a team before they’re big guns came along and they got paid big money because of it. I’d love to have a guy like Callahan on my team and I’m sure every team in the league agrees but at 5.8 Million that money could be used alot of other ways.

      • A-Mc

        Would you rather Callahan at 5.8 or Nikitin at 4.5? (Theoretical term being the same in # of years).

        My answer is i’d rather Callahan..but the Oil have Nikitin and this is why we can’t have nice things.

          • pkam

            I’ll rather have Nikitin over Callahan.

            Callahan still has 4 years left at 5.8M, and he only scored 4 points in 18 playoff games. He never scored more than 54 point a season in 8 NHL seasons and he is not going to get any better at 30 years old.

            Nikitin has only one year left at 4.5M, and buy him out only cost us 1.5M per year for 2 years.

            Short term pain vs long term pain.

          • camdog

            Horcoff at 5.5 never once was a problem for the Oilers, only in the minds of a few fans. That Callahan contract on the other hand would be a problem for the Oilers.

            The Oilers do not have room to take more cap on at the forward position, especially on a longer term contract. By the time the Oilers spend on defence goaltending and with raises to the young players they are going to be capped out.

          • pkam

            Overpaid contract is less of a problem when the team has a rich owner, with tons of cap space, cannot attract enough quality players and is still making profit.

    • Lofty

      Garrison,Filppula and Callaghan?

      Their combined overpayments look like $5.5 million of wste… Not horrible contracts.. But bad… Add in Sam Gagner’s $1.6 (really Purcell’s bad contract) and this team could be $9 million in space if they had signed these contracts properly.

      Only teams that get bang for their buck is Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver, Florida, and Dallas.

      Those are teams with no overpayments.

  • John Chambers

    Sorry “Quicksilver ballet” but their’s no way Stammer is moved next year or tests out the UFA market. Barring some sort of franchise collapse the Bolts will just resign him for a quick 10M contract (RE: Toews/Kane style) and lock him up for eternity – or rather the 8yr max. Why would Stammer want to leave a Bolts team that he personally witnessed get better year after year, and that just made (at the very least) the conference finals?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Don’t know Steven at all, but maybe he likes the rockstar life style of playing in Toronto. Sometimes places grow old on players and they’re looking for a new challenge. Playing in a market where hockey matters might mean something as well. That last long term
      Lecavilier contract didn’t work out so great for the Bolts…. What if Shanahan offers him 12 per, look at what they just paid to land Babcock, and he’s just the coach.

      10 out of 10 NHL players surveyed said they wouldn’t trade their personal wealth/standard of living just to have their name on the stanley cup. Money rules.

      • pkam

        Not totally impossible but very unlikely. I believe Tampa will try to lock him up this summer, just like the Pens locked up Crosby and Malkin, the Ducks locked up Getzlaf and Perry, the Hawks locked up Toews and Kane, so the Leafs won’t even have a chance to talk to him.

        I am afraid that the Leafs will have to draft and develop their own top centre so Leafs fans have to be patient for another 3-4 years.

          • It’s certainly up to Stamkos.

            With the Bolts on the verge of winning a Stanley cup this year, however, one would imagine there’s a lot of appeal in staying with Tampa Bay rather than joining the Toronto rebuild and hoping they eventually turn it around.

          • Gordie Wayne

            I have to think that if Tampa Bay wins the cup this year or next, he will bolt to Toronto when he is a UFA. He will welcome going to his hometown and trying to win there. He will already have his Stanley, so he would be way more open to going to TO. Remember the twitter fiasco last summer?

            http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/steven-stamkos-as-a-leaf-less-of-a-long-shot-than-youd-think/

            If he doesn’t win the cup in Tampa before he becomes a UFA, but they are still close to winning it (and they will be each year for at least the next 4-5 years anyway), then my bet is he stays in Tampa as they will be light years closer to winning than Toronto.

            That is why I am praying that Tampa doesn’t win in next 2 years, then they sign Stamkos to a 10 year deal because he will want to stay there with a winning team, thereby keeping him out of Toronto’s clutches.

          • pkam

            Of course it is an attempt before it happens, just like what happened to Crosby, Malkin, Getzlaf, Perry, Toews and Kane.

            Before they got locked up long term, their teams TRIED to lock them up and surprisingly all succeeded.

            I don’t know what is the motivation that drives Stamkos to leave Tampa. Is Stamkos really that much different than the others that he must go to the Leafs?

  • Young Oil

    Not sure if this is allowed, but if TBL need cap space, are they allowed to trade the retained salary from Gagner to a team with cap space?

    For example, something like Tampa Bay trades the retained salary and a third round pick for a seventh round pick.

    It’s an odd question I know, but I can’t find anything saying that it’s not allowed, though I suppose if it was I bet it would have been done already.

    • Oilcounty88

      (iii) Prohibition on Transfers of Payroll Room. A Club may not sell, assign, trade, transfer or otherwise hypothecate its Payroll Room (including, without limitation, by trading a Cap Advantage Recapture charge or obligations pursuant to a Retained Salary Transaction), provided, however, that Clubs, in the context of Trades, may allocate between them the Averaged Amount and related Player Salary and Bonuses payable under the given SPC(s) associated with the Player(s) being Traded subject to the following limitations…

  • John Chambers

    I know I’ve been beating the Sustr drum a bit hard, but why did you rule him out? If the Oiles signed him to an offer sheet in the five years $12.5 million range, I don’t think Tampa could maneuver to match. All that would cost us is a second round pick. I think it is a reasonable risk to take for a solid player who could become Tyler Meyers.

      • John Chambers

        I agree that they could; however, would they? I think their offseason is predicated on their ability to move Matt Carle. I’m not sure they could move Matt Carle unless they gave him away. Do you think they will?

          • CaptainLander

            I think a good plan for them would be to move one of their pricey guys and acquire a rental at the 2016 deadline with the cap space if necessary. I bet they explore moving Bishop too.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I would love to see them get Sustr. The other guy I would target would be Wayne Simmons from Philly.

      Imagine if a good old Canadian team like the Oilers could acquire Wayne and Sustr? The CBC would show the Oilers every night if they still had the NHL rights.

      * realizes 10% of Oilers Nation is old enough to get the reference.

      ** You kids, Get off my lawn.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Drew Remenda covered the Sharks for many years, Drew Remenda is best friends with Todd McLellan, Drew Remenda is infatuated with Todd McLellan….WE GET IT DREW! Can you just move on please?
    *Commence the trashes

    • The Soup Fascist

      only thing worse than watching oilers lose games last yr was having to listen to Remenda also!! sorry drew but commentating games just isn’t your thing, it is actually pathetic and would take louie back in a heart beat over remenda!! hopefully this is on chiarelli’s to do list!!LOL

    • pkam

      or maybe the players aren’t allowed to date super models????

      A long time ago Ron Greschner of the New York Rangers was married to Carol Alt who for the younger folks was a Super Model. I was trying get ticket to a Rangers game and knew Greschner’s sister who gave me Carol Alt’s phone number.

      I talked to Carol Alt’s voice mail. Pretty Impressive eh

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Nice to see some alternative options to the names I keep hearing about. Something tells me both Nurse and Klefbom will be on the squad next year. So if I was PC, I’d be looking for 2 right side D to strengthen the pair with Klefbom, and mentor Nurse. Carle could easily fit the mentor role and essentially be an upgrade on Petry. Only problem is he shoots left. So in that scenario, he becomes our top pair Left side D ala Paul Martin. Allowing Nurse to season in Bakersfield. That still requires one more right side guy, and likely mean qualifying Schultz, which I’m not crazy about.

    • CaptainLander

      “So if I was PC, I’d be looking for 2 right side D to strengthen the pair with Klefbom, and mentor Nurse.”

      If I am not mistaken I believe Klefbom played on the right side in the WC at times alongside OEL.

      Wonder how he fared and if this ever becomes a option? Can’t help but wonder what a pairing Nurse and Kbom would look like in a couple years.

      • R U Kidding Me!

        I think you are mistaken because if I’m not mistaken, OEL plays on the right side. That is why Yandle – who also plays on the right – and OEL were never paired up. It’s also why many people are projecting Phoenix will take Hanafin in the draft as Hanafin plays left, and the thought of Hanafin and OEL being their top pair for the next decade is pretty impressive. But I might be wrong.

        Also, I’m totally good with Nurse and Klefbom running on different pairs, assuming they have better, veteran, right side D to run with. Instead of having one top pair, the Oilers would then have a formidable top 4, it’s been a while since the team had that.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    the one guy they should absolutely be inquiring about is Vasilevsky! other than that, seems more logical to go after signed d-men like Carle and Garrison than a guy like Coburn, with 1 year left, then he….er….bolts!

  • The Soup Fascist

    They should poach Tampa’s PR and marketing team. Blades of Steel is a lot cooler than copywriting ‘The Battle of Alberta’ and forbidding others from using it.

    • Lofty

      Garrison got his big payday based on one year…

      His offense is basically gone and he isn’t that great defensively (slow and Radko physical)….

      Tampa took a chance on him and he is the likely candidate to move.

      • Scary Gary

        30 points in 70 games is still pretty decent, it’s all about how he’s being used. Brent Seabrook is the same age, size (almost exact) and had the same point total (31 in 82) this year. Not to mention Garrison has a 105 mph slap shot and is under a manageable contract for three more years.

        His first year in Vancouver was pretty good from a shutdown/possession point of view but his second year under Totorella was not.

  • Lofty

    Oilers trade Yakupov and Scrivens or draft choice , for Bishop . They could use another RW and a backup for Vasilevsky . We need a NBR.1 goalie . We would not be taking on a lot of salary in trade , and have lots to go after defensemen as well . Trade route might be more preferable to get a good goalie than UFA or RFA overpay route .

  • JBear

    Do teams have a chance once they have to start paying superstars in excess of $8M/year? That’s a lot of cap for 1 or 2 players that take away from the rest of the team.

  • Lofty

    I’m impressed with how well Tampa and its fans support the lightning. Night and day compared to the Panthers.

    I wonder how many fans are going to attend the draft in Miami this year. They cant get people to show up for games, cant imagine anyone shows up for the draft.

  • billythebullet

    I wonder if a jultz for carle or corburn deal would be possible. Tampa could resign jultz and save $1m in cap space. We.could get a legit d to help out.

  • Randaman

    In regards to Stamkos,I for one would love to see our Canadian stars come back to Canada.

    I’m not a Leafs fan but I wouldn’t rule this scenario out by any means.

    Who knows, maybe he sunburns easy.

  • Dan 1919

    Have Katz hire some black opps lobbyists to spread QuickSilver Ballets rumour of Stamkos leaving once he’s UFA. Offer the Lightning Yakupov and Draisaitl as a consolation prize.

    Hall, McD, Stamkos

    Lucic ,RNH, Eberle

    You’ll also notice Lucic has signed as a UFA next off season. You’re welcome.

  • Scary Gary

    This isn’t related to anything at all but I was just wondering about (from two years ago) the Jason Lababera deal to Chicago. The Oilers got “future considerations” from the Hawks. Did we get anything yet orrrr is it just like an excuse during a trade. Right now I feel really dumb and this was just bothering me lol