When you look through the Tampa Bay Lightning’s contract list heading into the 2022-23 season, it can be difficult to find an objectively bad deal that is acting as an anchor to the franchise. Over the last few years, the team has done a remarkable job at signing their own developed talent to below-market value deals and trading out players who may be making more than they can bring to the ice each night.
This has left it rather difficult to discuss the Lightning when it comes to actual bad contracts. Sure, they have some deals that are overvalued or full of risk, but there’s nothing egregious that you can easily point out as bad.
So, what all this means is that while these are the four worst contracts for Tampa Bay heading into the 2022-23 season, this doesn’t mean that any of these deals are particularly bad. It’s just that, in the grand scheme of things, these players might be slightly overpaid for their production, or they have a clear issue that can limit their effectiveness on the ice.
#4: Brayden Point: $9.5 Million
Part of the reason why I spent so much time explaining why I felt that the Lightning didn’t have a bad contract is to try to help justify why Brayden Point is on this list at all. As a first-line centerman who is capable of scoring at a 40-goal, 100-point pace, Point is well worth his $9.5 million contract extension that kicks in this season.
However, there are a few questions surrounding Point. First and foremost, he is coming off a major quad tear suffered in Game 7 of Round 1 during the 2022 Playoffs. Even though he tried to return to the ice for the Stanley Cup Final, it was clear that he was not healthy enough to play, and he was forced out of the lineup shortly after. As a player who is known for his speed and strength while skating, a major quad tear could have long-term negative effects on his game plan that would completely change his effectiveness on the ice.
Since he is now tied with Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy as the highest-paid player on the team, the Lightning really can’t afford to have Point playing at 70 percent of his expected value. He needs to be the player they locked down to that long-term deal for them to continue competing for a Stanley Cup.
#3: Alex Killorn – $4.45 Million
Another victim of circumstance, there is no world where Alex Killorn should be on a list about bad contracts (anymore) based on his regular season production. He posted 25 goals and 59 points during 2021-22, which makes his $4.45 million cap hit a relative bargain given what that kind of production can cost on the open market.
However, Killorn hits this list due to his disastrous postseason, where the Lightning veteran mustered no goals and only four points. As a top-six forward who is heavily relied upon on both ends of the ice, the expectation is that he will chip in at least five goals and 10 points throughout the playoffs.
Now, Killorn can quickly prove that this lack of production was just a bad stretch and that he is not regressing back to being a good but dangerously inconsistent player. If he goes out and scores another 20 goals and 40 points, no one will call his contract bad. There is reason to be concerned after that poor postseason showing, though, and his start to the season will be incredibly important to his future.
#2: Nick Paul – $3.15 Million
When the Lightning acquired Nick Paul at the 2022 Trade Deadline, no one could have expected the impact he would make on the franchise. Despite being a solid player with the Ottawa Senators for the better part of five seasons, he wasn’t someone you would expect to go out and change playoffs games, yet alone win series.
After scoring two Game 7 goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs to close out Round 1 of the playoffs, Paul put himself on the map. By the end of the postseason, he scored five goals and nine points, while being an all-around great player who understood exactly what he needed to be for the team to succeed. Most importantly, Paul just seemed to fit into the Lightning’s line-up, which led to the team extending him with a seven-year, $3.15 million contract.
Now, this contract is incredibly risky. It’s not uncommon for a player to have an unexpectedly great postseason, sign a big contract extension, then regress heavily back to the median in the following year. For Paul, that would be about 10 goals and 20 points, which is okay but not worth $3.15 million.
He could always prove all of this concern wrong, of course, and go on to score 20 goals and 40 points this year while looking like an absolute bargain. Paul is an incredibly talented player, after all, and if this postseason wasn’t a fluke then he will be worth his cap hit. For now, though, he’s a big question mark for a team with few unknowns in their line-up.
#1: Philippe Myers – $2.5 Million
Part of being a cap team is having to trade great players for little return in order to clear enough space to become compliant. During the 2022 offseason, the Lightning did this when they sent Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators for Philippe Myers and prospect Grant Mismash. Originally, the expectation was that the Lightning were going to buy out Myers, who would then grant a cap credit for the 2022-23 season due to how accounting works in the NHL sometimes.
Instead, the Lightning are betting on Myers being able to play his way into a meaningful role for the franchise. While he is no McDonagh, of course, he is still a 6-foot-5 right-shot defenseman with over 100 NHL games played in his relatively young career. If they can develop his toolkit, there’s a potential top-four starter in his frame, or at the worst he could be great depth for when injury eventually strikes.
The problem, though, is how potentially disastrous this bet could be. Myers carries a cap hit of $2.5 million, so if the Lightning had bought him out it would have provided the team with roughly $3.166 million in savings this season, which is a lot of cap space for a team pressed firmly against the ceiling.
So, Lightning fans will just have to trust the management staff that brought them to three-straight Stanley Cup Finals. If Myers takes that next step and plays 18 minutes a night in a top-six role, then he will be well worth his cap hit. If not, then this could end up being a rare major misfire.
Lightning Lack an Anchor Contract for the 2022-23 Season
Once again, I feel that it is very important to state that the Lightning are an exceptionally well-managed cap-era franchise, and their 2022-23 roster is just another sign of how they are able to keep this impressive roster together. They really don’t have a bad contract, which allows them to take a chance or two on players who may get overlooked.
However, some of these bets have a wide margin of error. If things continue going well then no one will care that you signed a player to a longer deal than expected. All it takes is one or two misses for things to go drastically wrong, though, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the Lightning throughout the 2022-23 season to see if they look back with regret on some of these contracts.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.