Earlier today, we were having a discussion amongst the staff about putting together an assessment of the Lightning's current cap situation. But before we could even get started, here comes more news. This afternoon, center Vladislav Namestnikov and wing Alex Killorn both filed for arbitration before the deadline to do so passed. While that might sound like a bad thing, it isn't.
Filing for arbitration is not an indication that negotiations between the team and the player are strained. All it really does is set a deadline to work out a new contract. As in almost every arbitration process, the most likely scenario is that both players work out new contracts with the team prior to the point of actually reaching any kind of formal hearing, which won't take place for at least two weeks and could be up to four weeks away. Of the 25 players who filed for arbitration last year, only three made it through the full process. And two of those players play for Ottawa, whose owner publicly expresses his pride in frugality.
Two other results of this scenario are worth noting. First, if one of the players was to be awarded over $3.5MM per year, the Lightning would have the option to walk away from that deal and allow the player to become an unrestricted free agent. But that is highly unlikely for either Lightning forward. Second, the Lightning will now have a second buyout window. Given that the team already used a buyout on Matt Carle, they would be unlikely to pursue that option with another player.
The most logical assumption is that General Manager Steve Yzerman is simultaneously working on new contracts for not just Killorn and Namestnikov but superstar wing Nikita Kucherov as well. Don't be surprised if all three contracts are announced in quick succession just as the team did with J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette on June 24th and then again with the flurry on June 30th through July 1st that included Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
Yzerman has been perfect in his salary cap navigation thus far this offseason. If he can lock up three young forwards on reasonable contracts, he will set up the team for the future as best as could possibly be expected.