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Lightning Round: Tampa Bay Lightning still need a trade to fix their salary cap

Volkov signs, and the NHL schedule is released.

Los Angeles Kings v Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 14: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal with teammates Alex Killorn #17, Anthony Cirelli #71, and Victor Hedman #77 against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Amalie Arena on January 14, 2020 in Tampa, Florida
Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without Nikita Kucherov this season due to an injury to his hip that requires surgery. If there is any silver lining to the team losing their best player and former league MVP, it’s that his $9.5 million contract can now be spent with him on LTIR. Let’s quickly go over the numbers and discuss why the Lightning still aren’t out of their mess.

The following roster (I made the lines and pairings arbitrarily) costs $78.9 million. I have listed Nikita Kucherov’s contract at zero dollars, but in reality his contract creates a pool of $9.5 million that the Lightning can spend over the cap. It’s the same math, though the Lightning won’t be able to bank cap space during the season. In this scenario, the team has $2.6 million in “space” to sign a player. Add $700k if you want to send Mathieu Joseph to the Taxi Squad or Syracuse Crunch.

Palat - Point - Stamkos
Killorn - Johnson - Gourde
Goodrow - Coleman - Stephens
Maroon - Paquette - Joseph
Hedman - Cernak
Sergachev - McDonagh
Coburn - Rutta

If Julien BriseBois can sign Cirelli for $3.3 million or less, I’ll be quite impressed. But in reality, we’re looking at a contract closer to what Mikhail Sergachev got ($4.8 million for three years). There’s a $1.5 million difference here, plus another $700k in order to replace the leaving player’s spot on the roster (ie. Alex Volkov for Cedric Paquette or Tyler Johnson).

Basically, the team still needs to trade a player making Alex Killorn money or better. No one below him will do it, unless you’re getting rid of two or three guys from the fourth line and bottom pair.

Remember that Johnson for Henrik Zetterberg rumor? Well, the likelihood of it happening is much higher now. The Lightning are already in the LTIR pool by a lot, why not throw in Zetterberg’s $6.08 million in order to help a team like Detroit take on a TJ contract. Taking on more LTIR contracts doesn’t change the math anymore (see: the Maple Leafs re-acquiring David Clarkson in the summer of 2019).

If the Lightning can trade someone like Johnson, they’ll have $7.6 million to sign Cirelli. If that is the case, may I suggest bringing in some more offensive firepower on a one-year deal? Mike Hoffman is a free agent. Michael Grabner is also out there.

Maybe there is a trade for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the Oilers retaining half or taking a contract back? There are rumblings the 2021 UFA can’t come to a deal with the team that drafted him first overall. We would be one heck of a spoiled team with that, I’ll tell you. Kyle Palmieri, Taylor Hall, and one Alex Ovechkin are all pending UFAs. Ok, I’ll stop.

Lightning Links

Nikita Kucherov is officially out for the season. [Raw Charge]

“After a week of good news regarding player signings, a lump of coal was thrust into Lightning fan’s stockings on Wednesday when General Manager Julien BriseBois announced that former Hart Trophy winner and all-around super-talented winger Nikita Kucherov will be out for the entire 2020-21 season as he will undergo hip surgery. Kucherov becomes the third Tampa Bay Lightning player in recent years, after Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point, to have similar types of procedures done. The team does expect him to make a full recovery.’

The Lightning signed Alex Volkov to a one-year, $700k contract yesterday.

The NHL released its full 2021 regular season schedule. We’ll have some analysis on this in the coming days, but for now here is the announcement article. [NHL dot com]

“As part of the NHL’s return to play protocols, the Lightning have been assigned to the league’s re-aligned, eight-team Central Division. Tampa Bay will play each divisional opponent eight times and will not compete against other divisions during the regular season. Other teams in that division include the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators. Detroit and Florida are the only other teams from the Atlantic Division to also be moved to the Central through re-alignment during return to play.”