Oilers Should Prey on Lightning’s Cap Troubles

It’s no secret the Tampa Bay Lightning and GM Steve Yzerman are in for a tough summer. The Lightning have numerous free agents this summer, whether restricted or unrestricted, and it’s unfathomable that they get everyone signed and stay under the projected $74M salary cap for 2016-17.

To paint how dire the picture is, Tampa Bay projects to have roughly $22M in cap space available to get Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, JT Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette and Nikita Nesterov under contract. It’s just not going to happen.

The Lightning have some big ticket contracts that they might have to move if they have any chance at keeping some core players under contract. That means a decision is going to have to be made on who to run with in goal between Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Do you keep the 29-year-old in his prime under contract for one more year at $5.9M, or hand it over to a 21-year-old on an ELC walking into RFA status next summer?

Yzerman has four defenders making over $4M in cap hits next summer, and that’s not factoring in the fact they need to hand Victor Hedman a mammoth-sized raise next summer or have him walk via free agency. That means the likes of Matt Carle ($5.5M), Jason Garrison ($4.6M), Anton Stralman ($4.5M) and Braydon Coburn ($3.7M) will more than likely all be in play. They need to make some space anyways for the likes of Nikita Nesterov, Slater Koekkoek and Anthony Deangelo, who will be chomping at the bit for NHL minutes next season.

Lightning Lacking Cap Space for Emerging Stars

Tampa Bay LightningThe Jonathan Drouin saga was an embarassment for both parties. It looks like that relationship is mending, but his performance this playoff will mean the talented, former 2013 3rd overall pick, is going to get a $3M bridge deal at the very least.

Killorn and Tyler Johnson have made a competent 1-2 punch at center for the Lightning without Stamkos. Yet Killorn is an RFA this summer and Johnson the following year. Both look like they’ll be able to command over $5M each on their next deals.

What about Nikita Kucherov, who has emerged as one of the leagues best players and more dangerous powerplay producers? Craig Custance of ESPN believes the market value of Kucherov could be close to what the St. Louis Blues had to give Vladimir Tarasenko at $7M per on a long-term deal.

2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Forwards (15) $36,029,956   |   50.46% of cap
Steven Stamkos C 26 $7,500,000 UFA
Ryan Callahan RW 31 $5,800,000 $5,800,000 $5,800,000 $5,800,000 $5,800,000 … UFA 2020
Valtteri Filppula C 32 $5,000,000 $5,000,000 $5,000,000 UFA
Tyler Johnson C 25 $3,333,333 $3,333,333 RFA
Ondrej Palat LW 25 $3,333,333 $3,333,333 RFA
Alex Killorn C 26 $2,550,000 RFA
Brian Boyle C 31 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 UFA
Erik Condra RW 29 $1,250,000 $1,250,000 $1,250,000 UFA
J.T. Brown RW 25 $950,000 RFA
Jonathan Drouin LW 21 $894,166 $894,166 RFA
Vladislav Namestnikov C 23 $874,125 RFA
Nikita Kucherov RW 22 $711,666 RFA
Cedric Paquette C 22 $633,333 RFA
Jonathan Marchessault C 25 $600,000 UFA (VI)
Mike Blunden RW 29 $600,000 UFA

The Tampa Bay Lightning are in salary cap hell, with vultures circling in the skies waiting for something to prey on. And we haven’t even begun to crunch the numbers on Steven Stamkos. By the way, that’ll cost more than $8M… minimal on a hometown discount.

Insert the Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton OilersEdmonton GM Peter Chiarelli will once again hit the board this summer, in his second offseason with the reigns. The Oilers need to turn things around in a hurry. To put this into perspective, Taylor Hall will be 25 next season and Jordan Eberle will turn 27. That’s how long this rebuild has taken for the Oilers. Eberle was drafted in 2008, but Hall officially kicked off the rebuild going 1st overall in 2010. It’s been a long road, and the Lightning offer several pieces for the Oilers to remold their roster into an eventual contender.

In goal the Oilers seem comfortable with Cam Talbot, who had a streaky season but ultimately ended strong, and had a good showing at the World Championships backstopping Canada to a gold medal. Talbot, 28, enters year one of four at $4.1M, and is slowly starting to look like a bargain. Where the Lightning can help is by adding another top-six forward to the mix and a legit top four defender. The Lightning have several at both positions.

2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Defensemen (8) $25,892,500   |   36.26% of cap
Matthew Carle D 31 $5,500,000 $5,500,000 $5,500,000 UFA
Jason Garrison D 31 $4,600,000 $4,600,000 $4,600,000 UFA
Anton Stralman D 29 $4,500,000 $4,500,000 $4,500,000 $4,500,000 UFA
Braydon Coburn D 31 $4,500,000 $3,700,000 $3,700,000 $3,700,000 UFA
Victor Hedman D 25 $4,000,000 $4,000,000 UFA
Andrej Sustr D 25 $1,450,000 $1,450,000 RFA
Nikita Nesterov D 23 $742,500 RFA
Matt Taormina D 29 $600,000 UFA

It’s hard to see the Lightning giving up one of the best defenders in the league in Hedman or an important piece in Stralman. Coburn, to a lesser extent, is on a cap friendly $3.7M deal. That leaves the targets on the backend to be Carle, Garrison and maybe even one of the Lightning’s pending RFA’s in Nesterov. Garrison might make a good fit on the Oilers top powerplay unit.

2016 Lightning UFAs: C – Steven Stamkos (26), C – Jonathan Marchessault (25), RW – Mike Blunden (29), D – Mattias Ohlund (39) & D – Matt Taormina (29)

2016 Lightning RFAs: C – Alex Killorn (26), RW – JT Brown (25), C – Vladislav Namestnikov (23), RW – Nikita Kucherov (22), C – Cedric Paquette (22), D – Nikita Nesterov (23) & G – Kristers Gudlevskis (23)

2017 Lightning UFAs: C – Brian Boyle (32), D – Victor Hedman (26) & G – Ben Bishop (30)

2017 Lightning RFAs: C – Tyler Johnson (26), LW – Ondrej Palat (26), LW – Jonathan Drouin (22), D – Slater Koekkoek (23), D – Andrej Sustr (26) & G – Andrei Vasilevskiy (22)

Upfront Yzerman’s top priority is getting a deal done with Stamkos before July 1. There will be plenty of offer sheets lingering around for the likes of Killorn, Kucherov and possibly Drouin if Yzerman doesn’t offer up a decent number.

Edmonton has several key pieces that have been involved in the rumour mill over the past season, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov being the three most likely to be traded. Yakupov is strongly being linked to the Montreal Canadiens, as GM Marc Bergevin looks to reunite him with his junior teammate Alex Galchenyuk. The Oilers are also openly shopping their 4th overall pick in this years draft.

2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Goalies (2) $6,875,000   |   9.63% of cap
Ben Bishop G 29 $5,950,000 $5,950,000 UFA
Andrei Vasilevskiy G 21 $925,000 $925,000 RFA

The point is that the Oilers are quickly entering their window and can’t sit back wasting away the early years of a cap friendly ELC for a franchise player like Connor McDavid who will, like Stamkos, get big money on an extension.

There’s plenty of movement that is going to be happening in Tampa Bay, and Edmonton needs to somehow get involved and land themselves a piece. These are two desperate teams this off-season – one trying to keep most of their team together and another trying to get out of the NHL basement. Keeping a contending team together is very difficult in the salary cap era. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and another team that’ll struggle with that lesson this offseason, the St. Louis Blues.

Tampa needs some relief and Edmonton has plenty of pieces to provide it.