The TSN Hockey Bobcast is a biweekly podcast hosted by Bob McKenzie. In this week’s episode, McKenzie discusses the Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap situation, pending Restricted Free Agents (RFAs), and the possibility of trading Jonathan Drouin.
Transcript from 11:45 to 20:56.
First couple of questions are on the same subject matter. This one from Mike Snake in Sarnia.
Hey Bob. What are your thoughts on Jonathan Drouin’s next contract? Does Steve Yzerman get him on a bridge deal or sign him long-term? Which would be better and how much would he be worth? Would the bad blood from last year come into consideration during the negotiation phase? - Mike Snake from Sarnia.
Also Ben Clancy. I think Ben’s from Peterborough. He’s had questions on the Bobcast before. He’s a very loyal listener, loves the Bobcast.
Hey Bob. What do you think the new contracts for Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat will be? If it’s not possible to sign all three, what kind of return could Tampa expect from an RFA?
These are really good questions because, I’ll be honest with you. The Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely fascinate me.
First off, shout out to Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper for the most successful unsuccessful season I can remember. The Tampa Bay Lightning did not make the playoffs, came very very close. But in light of all the injuries, in light of all the trades that they had to make for financial reasons, stripping the team down a little bit towards the deadline.
The run they got on with a bunch of guys that came up from the American Hockey League, boy oh boy. That was an inspiring performance. It felt short and obviously it’s not good that Tampa was out, but they obviously had a lot of injuries to deal with this year. But now they move on to the task at hand. And both Mike Snake from Sarnia and Ben Clancy from Peterborough have touched on this and we’ve talked about this in the past.
Tampa’s a cap team. They did do some really nice maneuvering at the deadline, getting rid of the Filppula contract. I do not doubt for a moment - and we’ll talk about this more in a little bit - that Steve Yzerman is going to continue to go down that path between now and the expansion draft. I think I read where Las Vegas was heavily scouting Tampa in the final weeks of the regular season.
It feels like Vegas Golden Knights have had reps at the last 5-6 #tblightning games. Seen a lot of them this season.— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) April 9, 2017
I would not be the least bit surprised if Steve Yzerman’s going to try to use the veil of the expansion draft to try and get more financial relief and more financial flexibility to try and sign some of the players that he’s got.
Three big RFAs: Drouin, Johnson, and Palat
As Mike Snake pointed out, you’ve got three high-profile restricted free agents: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin. So how do they go about this?
They need defense in the worst way. There’s no question that’s a significant shortcoming on this team. They’ve got salary cap issues that if they don’t get that relief as part of deals with Las Vegas, quite frankly I’m not sure they can sign Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson - all three of them to a contract.
So you’ve got to be careful here because we’re having a discussion. I’m not reporting anything. This is not Bob McKenzie, the hockey insider reporting what Steve Yzerman or the Tampa Bay Lightning may or may not do. This is Bob McKenzie of the Bobcast simply bullshitting with you guys about what he could do and what I think he might do, but it’s not a report. Let’s make sure I don’t radio myself here on that disclaimer.
So here’s my thoughts. My thought is I won’t be overly surprised if Jonathan Drouin gets traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning in this off-season. As I said, it’s not a slam dunk. There’s a whole bunch of moving parts and a lot of variables. Let’s talk about some of those.
As I said, unless they move... What contracts might they need to move here? Garrison’s got 4.6 million on his deal for next year. Coburn’s got another two years at 3.7 million. Callahan’s got 5.8 million times three [years] left on his deal. These are deals some of them that if the Lightning can get out from underneath, [it] could help them in their efforts to sign Drouin, Palat, and Johnson.
Drouin’s an interesting guy because of the three, he’s probably got the highest ceiling in terms of what he could be. We saw the superstar potential. Really dynamic. He’s put all the “bad blood” if you will between himself and Tampa Bay and vice versa behind him, I believe.
Ondrej Palat’s a real solid guy. There’s no question in my mind Tampa wants him back. I don’t think there’s any question they want Tyler Johnson back either. In a perfect world, they want all these guys back. Why wouldn’t you? They can’t have them all.
Then the question becomes, who do you move? What do you move? There are going to be a lot of people out there who say because of the superstar potential, you can’t trade Jonathan Drouin. He’s just too good. He’s going to be too good. But Nikita Kucherov - he is a superstar, boy oh boy. He took a bridge contract, a three-year deal at the beginning of this season.
And the emergence of Brayden Point gives the Lightning another guy who’s got way above average offensive ability and potential but is currently on his entry-level contract and therefore qualifies, for now anyways, as cheap labor.
Salary cap concerns
Yzerman did a magnificent job at the deadline of making sure that they didn’t put themselves in the bonus overage situation for all those guys that are going to get bonuses like Drouin and others. They were under the cap, so they don’t get dinged with the extra charge on the cap next year, so that - As I said, again, golf clap for Steve Yzerman for the maneuvering that he pulled off.
#Lightning would have had ended up with an overage of $1,196,668 had they not moved Boyle, Bishop & Filppula at the deadline.— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) April 13, 2017
But my thought also on these is that Palat is going to want to try and do a cap friendly deal, I would think for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tyler Johnson does the same thing. I wouldn’t absolutely rule it out for Jonathan Drouin, but I think he’s a different kettle of fish.
When you’re a top three pick in the National Hockey League entry draft, when you grow up being an elite player - and even Kucherov, even though he’s an elite player now, he wasn’t elite in the sense of the pedigree of where he was drafted and where he came from.
I think Jonathan Drouin is a lot less likely than a lot of players to take a bridge deal. My guess on Jonathan Drouin is that he’s going to want a five or a six or a seven year deal, at the obligatory north of six million dollars a year. We’ve seen a lot of these deals get done for guys coming out of entry-level [contracts].
I think the history of Jonathan Drouin with the Lightning is - on one level, it’s a non-factor. I think Yzerman and Drouin have put all their problems behind them. But I also think that Jonathan Drouin probably thinks that at every step of the way, he was denied an opportunity to get what he thought other players of his stature were getting - that is playing as an 18 year old in the National Hockey League. And the role of prominence that he didn’t have on the Lightning because they were a Stanley Cup contending team, where Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksander Barkov and others got it with teams like Colorado and Florida.
So I guess what I’m saying is this: I’m not convinced that Jonathan Drouin’s going to take a two or a three year deal the way that Kucherov did. I’m not convinced that Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning think that they can fit Drouin, Palat, Johnson and everybody into their lineup. There’s going to have to be some hard decisions. If they want that premium defenseman that they’re going to get, then in that case maybe Jonathan Drouin’s the guy that has to go.
Drouin to St. Louis for Shattenkirk?
Now I should also point out the reality of the situation here. I think enough people have reported it and I believe it to be true that Tampa and St. Louis actually had a deal on the table earlier this year that would have sent Kevin Shattenkirk to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Drouin to the St. Louis Blues. I don’t know all the specifics of it, but that was basically it. If Shattenkirk had agreed to what the Lightning were offering him, Shattenkirk wouldn’t be a Cap [Washington Capitals] now, he’d be a Lightning and Jonathan Drouin would be in St. Louis.
I do believe that there was some consideration or some talk about the notion of Jonathan Drouin potentially being available in trade at the deadline in March. So I don’t think it’s such a far-fetched notion that between now and the expansion draft, Steve Yzerman’s going to at least explore the possibilities of Jonathan Drouin’s market value. And he will get the highest return of almost anybody on his team that he’d be prepared to trade. So we’ll see where it goes from here, but I do think that’s a possibility. I also think it’s a possibility that they could live happily ever after.
I guess the way I would put it - and again, not reporting it - is that as surprised as some people would be at the notion of Jonathan Drouin being traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning, I would be equally or more surprised if he weren’t traded. So take that for what it’s worth.