Following up on yesterday’s signing of Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta, Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois continued to settle all family business as the club announced new contract agreements for forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alexander Volkov. Joseph, who has appeared in 107 NHL games and recorded 33 points (17goals, 16 assists) signed a two-year, one-way deal for $737,500 while Volkov, who made his NHL debut last season, signed a one-year, one-way deal for $700,000.
The signings are further indication that Mr. BriseBois has a plan in place to get the Lightning under the salary cap prior to opening night on January 13th. In the meantime he’s using as much of the off-season cap overage as he can. According to CapFriendly, the Lightning are currently at $87.7 million and would need to shave off $6.2 million to be at the cap maximum when the puck drops on the first night of the season.
Oh yeah, and he still has to sign at least one more Restricted Free Agent. Some guy by the name of Anthony Cirelli. Don’t worry, we’re pretty confident that he has a plan so HANDS OFF to all of you lurkers who want to offersheet Cirelli.
As for Joseph and Volkov, the one-way contracts are a sign that the Lightning want to keep them in the organization. While neither had overly remarkable seasons during their time in the NHL last season, they could prove valuable depth pieces in the upcoming season as part of the bottom two lines.
In Volkov’s case, he might even see some time on a top line if the reported injury to Nikita Kucherov keeps the former Hart Trophy winner out of the lineup. While he is a streaky scorer, Volkov does have top-end finishing ability and could be a good compliment to Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos if coach Jon Cooper should go in that direction.
Volkov appeared in nine regular season games last season and recorded only one assist. He also struggled with consistency when he was reassigned to Syracuse following an early season recall. However, following The Pause he did play much better in the summer training camp and made the postseason roster. He only appeared in one playoff game, but it was the Stanley Cup clincher and he drew the penalty that led to Point’s power play goal.
In his AHL career he has posted 123 points in 195 games (55 goals, 68 assists) while playing all roles under coach Ben Groulx. He can kill penalties effectively and also produce on the power play, traits that bode well for him earning a spot on the Lightning and playing regularly.
Joseph will be looking to bounce back after a season in which he struggled a little. In his rookie season of 2018-19 Joseph was productive on the ice scoring 13 goals in 70 games while maintaining positive possession numbers. In his second season he posted similar possession (51.3% CF as opposed to 51.4% in the prior year) but his offense fell off a cliff as he only recorded 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) in 37 games.
The Lightning reassigned him to Syracuse in order to boost his playing time and perhaps his confidence. After a rough first game (a 7-3 loss to Bellevue where no one on the Crunch looked good), he quickly resembled his old self as he posted points in seven straight games. He finished the AHL season as one of the Crunch’s best players with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) in 29 games. More importantly he looked like a much more aggressive player, using his speed to attack the offensive zone and drove play.
A strong training camp in the summer also allowed him to earn a spot on the taxi squad in the postseason bubble, and while he didn’t make it into a game, he did get the chance to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship on the ice with his family, a feat not many players were able to accomplish in 2020.
The signings of the these two players pretty much whittles Mr. BriseBois’ off-season to-do list down to two or three items (re-signing Dominik Masin this year might not be one of them). The big glaring one is to shave off enough cap room to fit in eventual Cirelli’s bridge deal and if that is to be done via trade, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it come following the Christmas holiday to give whichever player is moved out a chance to travel and quarantine at their new destination. If it involves placing an injured player on LTIR then re-signing Joseph and Volkov does help provide depth on the roster to help alleviate the loss of that missing person.
With more moves in the future, stay tuned to Raw Charge for updated news.