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Reviewing Tampa Bay’s first day of free agency

It was...a day

Tampa Bay Lightning Victory Rally & Boat Parade Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Two of the busiest days in the NHL are trade deadline day and the first day of free agency. Teams can shape or reshape their roster on both days and a lot of time and energy is put into covering the events that unfold. There is one big difference between the two though. There is defined end to Trade Deadline Day. At 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (OK sometimes closer to 5:00 pm as the deals tend to trickle out) the day is over and writers can turn off Twitter, finish up their stories and be assured their not going to miss anything.

With free agency, it’s just the beginning. There is excitement when the clock turns to noon (although not as much this year since the lack of free agent visits prior to October 1st didn’t allow for much negotiation) and the contracts can start being signed. Then it just kind of goes on. Usually a big name or two will sign early. Some deals will roll in throughout the day, but there is nothing stopping a free agent from signing at 10:00 pm, or three days from now.

With a flat cap, an inordinate amount of Restricted Free Agents not having been tendered contracts the night before, and a bevy of goalies available via trade or free agency it was lining up to be an odd start to the signing period. Oh, and it was taking place in October, not July.

So what did this all mean to the Tampa Bay Lightning? Not much, really. Their focus for the next few months is on getting rid of players, not adding them. With a tiny budget, vulnerable RFAs, and a lack of major holes in their line-up, things were lining up to be a rather quiet day for the Lightning.

Then, a few minutes after things got going, Elliotte Friedman casually dropped a Tweet.

Cue the WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? reactions.

In short, not much really, other than the fact that General Manager Julien BriseBois has yet to be able to work out a deal with another team for Johnson’s services. Placing him on waivers will lead to one of two outcomes:

  1. A team claims him, assumes his salary and the only compensation the Lightning receive is $5.5 million worth of cap space. Which is Mr. BriseBois’ primary end goal. Not getting a prospect or a draft pick in return would be a bummer, but it’s not the end of the world.
  2. No one claims him and nothing really changes.

That’s it. If no one claims Johnson by noon today things roll on just like before. The Lightning can still trade him if he agrees to the team. Or they can put him in the line-up next season and find the cap room somewhere else.

As of right now the buyout window is closed. There is a chance it could reopen but that would involve some other things falling into place, and Mr. BriseBois probably isn’t at that step yet.

In essence, Mr. BriseBois has time to figure out another way to either move Johnson or shake the money out of a different set of couch cushions. The optics aren’t great, but one would assume that the organization has kept Johnson apprised of the situation as it’s unfolded. They don’t have a history of blindsiding players with moves like this.

While Lightning Twitter spent the day either freaking out, figuring out who may claim him, or if handshake deals between GMs to claim a player off of waivers and then work out a future trade circumvents the salary cap, Mr. BriseBois went along about his business.

He re-signed Patrick Maroon to a two-year deal and Luke Schenn to a one-year deal. Nothing too exciting, much like last year both of these players bring depth, size, and the requisite grit to the line-up. Maroon should see regular shifts on the fourth line while Schenn’s playing time will depend on if Mr. BriseBois makes any more moves.

His moves may depend on the moves of other general managers. If there are no takers on Johnson, Mr. BriseBois still has a couple of trade chips. Alex Killorn can still be traded to a certain number of teams. However, his market may not open up until Taylor Hall decides where he wants to spend the better part of the next seven years of his life. Any team that misses out on Hall, might be willing to part with a pick or a prospect for everyone’s favorite influencer.

The same goes for Ryan McDonagh. He’s kind of a dark horse to be traded simply because the Lightning could really use his services. Also, he has one of those pesky No Trade Clauses as well. If Mr. BriseBois can convince him to wave it for a few teams, he might be able to work a deal for the folks that miss out on Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues are probably out of the running since they signed Torey Krug, but there are still a few teams out there with the cap room and the need for a rugged defenseman.

While there are still a lot of questions surrounding the Lightning, the Syracuse Crunch were able to check some things off of their list. The GM started his work Thursday night by re-signing goaltender Spencer Martin. Then he added another goaltender in Chris Gibson. Those two will fight for the number one job in Syracuse. He then added former Leaf Andreas Borgman to help out on defense.

Could Borgman find himself on the Lightning? Probably. Again, it’ll depend on other moves made over the next couple of months. If the Lightning lose Erik Cernak or Mikhail Sergachev to an offer sheet (unlikely) or have to trade Braydon Coburn or Ryan McDonagh (slightly more likely) the Lightning defense gets awful thin, especially on the right side.

One of the reasons is because Kevin Shattenkirk is trading Disney World for Disney Land. He signed a 3 year deal with an AAV of $3.9 million with the Anaheim Ducks. That’s a great deal for him, and one that the Lightning just couldn’t match. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but it still hurts just a little bit.

The Lightning also saw Carter Verhaeghe take a trip down south as he signed a two-year deal with the Panthers worth $1 million per season. Could they have matched that? Probably, but they can also replace him with players already on the roster (Gemel Smith?)

That about sums things up for the Bolts on day one. The good news is, that unlike the trade deadline, there is still time to make more moves. Julien BriseBois hasn’t made too many missteps during his short time at the head of the table.