Heading into the 2019-20 NHL season, the Tampa Bay Lightning felt like they knew what they had in Alex Killorn. As a streaky scorer, he was good for a solid-looking 15 goals and 40 points, spread out in maddening scoring clumps amid weeks of complete invisibility on the ice.
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However, by the Lightning’s last regular season game on March 10, things were different. Killorn just kept scoring, putting up 26 goals and 49 points in 68 games, far and away a career best in goals scored and points. Had the season finished as normal, he likely would have broken 30 goals and 50 points, a huge milestone for a player not known to be a major scorer.
While experiencing this career year, an inevitable question was asked… should the Lightning trade Killorn? For years, the idea of getting out of his seven-year, $31.15 million contract seemed impossible, as it stretched until the 2022-23 season for a player that was simply just good.
Now with a potential 30-goal season under his belt, that $4.45 million cap-hit seems more reasonable, if not a steal. So, should the Lightning look to cash-in on a veteran player experiencing a career year, or should they keep Killorn and hope that this is a sign of his future production?
Killorn’s Value Has Never Been Higher
The reasoning behind trading Killorn is simple: his value is at an all-time high. Given his production and cap hit, he could easily garner a package of a second-round or better draft pick and another quality pick/prospect.
This summer was also the first time that Killorn could be easily tradeable, as his full no-trade clause becomes a modified no-trade clause for the 2020-21 season. This would allow him to submit a 16-team list that he would accept a trade to, giving the Lightning options should they decide to move on from him.
All of this creates an appealing scenario for the Lightning, as they could recoup some of the assets they lost at the 2020 trade deadline while clearing $4.45 million in needed cap space before what will likely be an active offseason due to a number of key players needing extensions.
Do Lightning Still Need Killorn?
Interestingly, the thing many saw as Killorn’s biggest negative, his contract, has become one of his selling points to the Lightning. With three years left on his seven-year deal, he is locked in at a reasonable rate given his production this year.
For a franchise up against the salary cap, having a veteran 20 to 30 goal-scoring forward signed for under $4.5 million a year is a real blessing.
Also, it is worth noting that Killorn has been one of the Lightning’s best playoff performers over his eight-year career. In 67 postseason games, he has posted 21 goals and 41 points, both in the top 10 in franchise history.
Given the fact that they are fighting for a Stanley Cup, the Lightning may want to hold onto Killorn simply for his playoff demeanor at a relatively low cap hit. As Tampa Bay learned at the 2020 trade deadline, acquiring potential playoff difference makers is expensive, so it may cost more to replace his production than it’s worth.
Should Lightning Trade Killorn?
When you look back at Killorn’s playing history, he’s never necessarily been a bad player. As said best by JustinG of Rawcharge.com:
Alex Killorn exists to be a pretty good, but not great hockey player.
Considering that he will likely see a scoring dip over the remainder of his contract, it makes the most sense to sell high on Killorn as he is coming off of a career year. If he can return at least a second-round pick plus some extras, then the move would be a win for the Lightning.
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Of course, if there’s no interest on the trade market for Killorn, then Tampa Bay should just hold onto him. Forcing a trade would be an error, as he rarely misses games and is productive enough to justify his contract.
So, if a good trade is on the table, then the Lightning should move Killorn. If not, they may be better off taking the gamble that the 2019-20 season was not a fluke and that 30 goals could be his new yearly potential.
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.