The Lightning’s signing of Alex Killorn comes with some cap concerns, but those could be alleviated with a trade. Goaltender Ben Bishop may be the most appealing trade candidate, but Valtteri Filppula and Jason Garrison are also in the mix. Meanwhile, the Bruins could part ways with David Krejci to land a top-pairing defenseman.
The Tampa Bay Lightning avoided arbitration with winger Alex Killorn by re-signing him Sunday to a seven-year, $31.25-million contract. The annual cap hit ($4.45 million), however, leaves the Lightning with just over $8.5 million of cap room and restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestinkov and Nikita Nesterov to re-sign.
Kucherov, 23, is completing an entry-level contract with an average annual salary of over $849K. Coming off two straight 60-plus point campaigns and leading the Lightning in scoring during the 2016 playoffs, he could push for a raise of around $6-million per season
The 23-year-old Namestnikov has a player-elected arbitration hearing slated for July 29. The versatile checking center is finishing up a three-year deal worth a base salary of $925K and could seek over $2-million annually.
Like Kucherov, Nesterov is also completing an entry-level contract. His slide down the Lightning’s blueline depth chart last season means there’s less a priority to re-sign him.
New contracts for Kucherov and Namestnikov could use up most, perhaps all, of the Bolts’ cap space for 2016-17. They’ll have no room for Nesterov, let alone for any roster additions.
Killorn’s new contract, and those eventually signed by Kucherov, Namestnikov and Nesterov, will also affect the Lightning’s efforts to re-sign forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. They’re all slated for RFA status next summer.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith reports Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he could swing a trade this summer to re-sign all his current RFAs and remain cap compliant for 2016-17.
Goaltender Ben Bishop seems the most likely trade candidate. He’s eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer and will seek a substantial raise over this current $5.9-million cap hit. With the Lightning re-signing Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year extension, it’s believed they will part ways with Bishop via trade, next June’s expansion draft (provided he waives his no-movement clause in both cases) or via free agency next summer.
During the 2016 NHL Draft last month in Buffalo, there was talk the Dallas Stars were interested in Bishop. However, they currently have Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi under contract for the next two seasons. Unless they can find a taker for one or the other, they lack room to add Bishop.
Filppula, 32, has a modified no-trade clause. His production has steadily declined from his career-high 66 points in 2011-12 with the Detroit Red Wings. That and his annual average salary could hurt his trade value.
Garrison waived his no-trade clause to approve a trade to the Lightning from the Vancouver Canucks. If his trade clause remains intact, there’s no certainty he’ll waive it again.
KREJCI POSSIBLE TRADE CHIP IN BRUINS’ HUNT FOR ‘D’
With the Boston Bruins still in need of a top puck-moving defenseman, speculation persists claiming center David Krejci could become trade bait this summer to address that need.
Krejci, 30, is a skilled playmaker who tied for second (63 points) among the Bruins leading scorers last season. It was the fifth time in the last eight seasons he’s exceeded 60 points. He also led the Bruins with 46 assists. Despite Krejci’s offensive consistency, however, SI.com’s Allan Muir isn’t buying into the Krejci trade chatter.
The center’s contract ($7.25-million cap hit through 2020-21, full no-movement clause until 2018-19) is a significant stumbling block. For teams with defensemen that could help the Bruins now (St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk, Anaheim’s Cam Fowler), Muir doubts Krejci’s contract is a good financial fit.
Krejci’s injury history also has to be a concern. He’s only played 80-plus games twice in his career. Knee and hip injuries limited him to only 47 games in 2014-15, and he underwent hip surgery in April.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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