Six seasons ago, Tampa Bay traded one of the franchise’s greatest players in Martin St-Louis to the New York Rangers, bringing in Ryan Callahan to add leadership to a budding Lightning squad. Fast forward to today, and Callahan is once again bringing value to the club, this time in the form of salary-cap relief. Callahan was shipped with a fifth-round pick to Ottawa in exchange for depth netminder Mike Condon and a sixth-round pick in 2020.
In his five full seasons with the Bolts, Callahan skated in 70-plus games just twice, spending a large chunk of his time in Tampa Bay on the sidelines. His on-ice contributions left much to be desired in relation to his salary, often playing far down in the lineup in favor of giving ice time to the team’s young talent. Earlier this summer, the news broke that Callahan will never play another game in the NHL due to a degenerative back disease (the Lightning placed Callahan on long-term injured reserve on June 20). Callahan has one year remaining on his deal with a cap hit of $5.8 million, while Condon’s cap hit is $2.4 million in the NHL, but just $1.325 million if they bury his deal.
Though most of Callahan’s cap hit wouldn’t have counted under the CBA’s convoluted LTIR’s rules, he’s now completely off the books. And with Callahan gone, the Lightning have just over $11 million in cap room in which to sign RFA Brayden Point. That’s really what matters about this deal: with 92 points on the season, Point is coming off of a breakthrough campaign and could earn the same, or more, that Nikita Kucherov does on his $9.5-million AAV.
While the Lightning appear to have their ducks in order for this season, there will be more cap-crunch fires to put out next summer. Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev will all be due raises as 2020 RFAs and, assuming Point’s AAV is $9 million, the Lightning are looking at just $5 million in cap space. And with eight players currently making more than $5-million annually, not including Point, more juggling will be in order.
Point’s contract is the most important tidbit to come out of the Callahan trade, but Tampa’s goaltending situation got a bit more tricky. The Lightning signed veteran backup Curtis McElhinney July 1 despite a great season from youngster Louis Domingue. And now, with Condon, the Bolts have seven goalies under contract, with Zach Fucale, Spencer Martin and Scott Wedgewood also signed for 2019-20. Expect the Lightning to trade at least one of Dominique or Condon to clear the decks (and some cap space).
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