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The captain, the contract, the cap and the cash

Other transactions are likely with direct and indirect ties to a new Steven Stamkos contract.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Speculation on Steven Stamkos' future has been a talking point for how long now? Speculation ramped up over the summer with GM Steve Yzerman's decree that signing #91 was his top priority of the off-season. Without things completed, the talk and rhetoric turned into rumor-mongering and hearsay.  "Stamkos wants out" "Stamkos to Buffalo" "Yzerman wants Stammer on the wing, not at center" "Stamkos to Calgary" "Stamkos wants Cooper gone" and of course "would everyone else please shut up, Stamkos to Toronto (e5)."

With all that speculative stuff out there as truth or rumor, there's been one that's been lacking from out-of-town media (or even local media for that matter): cap management in Tampa Bay and making room for #91's next contract. The Lightning are already tight at the salary cap ceiling and while big contracts and cap hits will be expiring at the end of the season (Mattias Ohlund and Braydon Coburn) others have more time to be burned off.

Enter Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun to bring up this topic and name drop in his piece about Stamkos and the contract talks:

It's believed Yzerman is attempting to clear money off the books by shopping defenceman Matt Carle around the league. The 31-year-old, who is making $5.5 million per season, has a contract that runs through 2017-18.

While Garrioch named Carle (and there's an element of Lightning faithful who see the news and grin or nod in enthusiastic acceptance), it can't and shouldn't stop with Matt Carle being shopped. Carle holds less value with a big contract and a bottom-pair defenseman status in Tampa Bay.  Meanwhile, Valtteri Filppula might be a well respected and appreciated forward on the Lightning's depth chart, but his cap hit of $5 million a season until the end of 2016-17 is a bit taxing. With a glut of restricted free agents pending and bubbling talent through the depth charts of the organization at forward, you'd think it'd be easier for the veteran forward (who can play both center and wing) to be moved than Carle.

In the instance of Carle on the market, there's no straight-deal to be done unless the receiving team is doing charity; a late round pick in a projected weak draft year. If a player - prospect, minor leaguer, roster player - is sought in return, Carle alone won't be who is moved... In fact, a Lightning organizational prospect might be the more sought-after commodity in making a deal. I won't speculate on who or what, but don't expect throw-away, low-ceiling talent to be the Bolts talent that helps sway a deal.

This is a downside of a new Stamkos contract, and one that would just be in the beginning stages in this instance. To keep the weight of the deal and the team competitive, guys you are loving now would become expendable, or at least that likelihood accepted. It's the business of the game.