At 12:00 PM EDT, the last free agent period of the current collective bargaining agreement commences and we officially enter what some consider Christmas in July while others actively call it "silly season". Insane contracts will be handed out in some instances, and some jaw-dropping deals (both high priced and low-cost, as well as surprising destinations) will get people's attention.
This can be seen as the last gasp of the 2011-12 NHL season and the procreation of the 2012-13 NHL season; the moves that take place around the league now will set the stage for October and beyond.
That is, if Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr don't screw things up. No pressure, gentlemen.
All 30 NHL clubs are players, and while day one of free agency may see the (remaining) big free agent names taken off the list, the period doesn't ever truly end until training camp starts.
And for all of the excitement of the moment, this remains your transition into the doldrums of the summer. Enjoy it while it lasts.
The Tampa Bay Lightning isn't likely to be a major player in free agency. While there's talk of what the team needs (a top-4 defenseman, a 3rd line center) and rhetoric about what the team should do (Martin Brodeur is testing free agency and people think Tampa is a fit), the fact remains the Bolts have a load of talent under contract next season - both NHL veterans and potential NHL rookies (hello, Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson, Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio).
That doesn't mean signings won't happen. That doesn't mean transactions won't happen (a potential trade somewhere, if the price is right, to fill a need)... It just means that outside restricted free agent signings, AHL depth signings and Benoit Pouliot, I don't expect Tampa Bay to be actively chasing looming big-name free agents.
Then again, Steve Yzerman could very well prove me wrong.
The Lightning is some $20 million under the 2012-13 $70 million salary cap (which will probably be reduced in any new CBA deal).
Noteworthy Unrestricted Free Agents:
- Ryan Suter - D
- Alexander Semin - LW
- Zach Parise - LW
- Shane Doan - RW
- Dustin Penner - LW
- Matt Carle - D
- Al Montoya - G
Tampa Bay Lightning UFA's (NHL / AHL)
- Brett Clark - D
- Mike Commodore - D
- Bruno Gervais - D
- Benoit Pouliot - LW
- Dwayne Roloson - G
- Tim Wallace - F
* Left the club, has been playing in Europe