The Lightning and center Vladislav Namestnikov have agreed to a two year contract at an average annual value of $1.9375M. The signing leaves Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov as the only remaining Lightning players needing contracts. Namestnikov's role with the team fluctuated last season playing as high as the first line and as low as the fourth line at different points in the season.
Namestnikov has shown the ability to be a top six forward. He spent several weeks early in the year centering a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on his wing. According to corsica.hockey, that line was one of the best the Lightning iced at any point in the year Despite his strong showing as a member of the top six, Namestnikov will likely spend most of his time in the bottom six next season. The Lightning have Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson to anchor their first two lines and Valterri Filppula has head coach Jon Cooper's confidence to center the third line that frequently matches the opposition's top line. Unless Namestnikov can bypass Filppula, he will likely play on the third and fourth lines and serve as a fill-in when needed in the top six.
Namestnikov signing avoids his arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Friday. It also leaves the re-sgning of Nikita Kucherov as the lone remaining major move for the team. With somewhere between 6 and 6.5 million remaining in cap space depending on roster construction, fitting both Kucherov and Nesterov is going to be a challenge. The Lightning can get some breathing room by placing Ryan Callahan on long term injury reserve to start the season but would likely need to make a move to clear some space before he returns or they could find themselves in trouble if they suffer any injuries during the season.
Aside from the salary cap considerations, this is a great signing for the Lightning. Namestnikov would be a top six forward for a most teams so having him as scoring depth is a luxury. From Namestnikov's perspective, he will be 25 when he hits the market for his next contract and primed to secure a long term deal. If he continues to progress on his current trajectory, he will likely be a coveted commodity as a top two center.
The Namestnikov signing brings the Lightning one step closer to traversing a long summer of salary cap challenges. With the Kucherov signing the lone remaining major hurdle, Steve Yzerman is close to putting the team in position to compete for another deep playoff run next year.