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Lightning Round: which right defenseman should Tampa Bay extend first?

The league might soon establish a “last possible day” for games to return.

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at Amalie Arena on February 27, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Braydon Coburn, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak under contract or team control heading into next season. And while Sergachev has played the right side before, only Cernak is a true righty. That leaves the Lightning with at least two spots to fill and a lot of RHD expiring from their roster.

While we aren’t certain that this season as concluded, now is as good time as any to think in an off-season mindset with the luxury of free agency not having already passed. The question I had been mulling over all day was which defensemen are the Lightning going to choose as they look to fill out their lineup for next year.

The Lightning currently have under contract some of the more enticing right-handed defense options in the lower-end market. Kevin Shattenkirk, Jan Rutta, Zach Bogosian, and Luke Schenn are all NHL-calibre defensemen to varying degrees and could be options to retain as they are known commodities.

Kevin Shattenkirk

In the summer, Shattenkirk came to Florida to revive his career following a buyout by the New York Rangers. He’s going to be making the same salary from the Rangers as he did this year ($1.43 million), though his cap hit for the Blueshirts is a whopping $6.083 million. Shattenkirk had 34 points with the Lightning, which is more than he had in his two-year tenure with the Rangers.

If he feels like he can go back onto the free agent market and make bank, I’m sure he’ll consider it and the Lightning would quickly fall out of contention for his services. However, if he wants to stay where he’s comfortable, it would be another great value contract for the Lightning, who saw him fill-in on their top pair for significant stretches of the regular season. If you have someone who can play successfully with star offensive defensemen on the cheap, you’re in a really good position as the Lightning were this season.

Jan Rutta

Speaking of competent defensemen who can play with stars, Jan Rutta was another great addition to the roster when he was healthy. Rutta played most of his season with Hedman and was a strong complimentary partner for the Norris Trophy winner.

My feelings for Rutta are about where they are for Shattenkirk as well. Found pieces who fit into the makeup of the team really well and don’t need to be managed specially in order to get what you want out of them. I think if the Lightning are able to get either player back for about the same as what they were making this year, they will have done brilliantly.

Zach Bogosian

I’ll be honest, Bogosian didn’t pan out in the limited minutes we saw from him. It was a decent bet at the time considering he was a free player that fit within the cap restrictions, but I don’t think he was enough of a success — both in terms of production and the appearance of trust from the coaching staff — to warrant an extension.

Luke Schenn

Really great at sitting in the pressbox for league minimum. If that’s what the Lightning need, he’s there.

So at the end of the day, if the Lightning can secure the services of one of Shattenkirk or Rutta, they’ll be in a great position for next year. Both sides have an undetermined number of months to discuss extensions, and if one (or both) can get done sooner rather than later, it’s one less thing to worry about.

Lightning Links

The Lightning put together a March Madness-style bracket of the best games in Tampa Bay Lightning history under Jon Cooper. The bracket plus a great post with descriptions of each game have been provided below. The first round ends at 10am this morning if you are able to squeak your choices in time.

Sergachev and his puppy updated the internet on their lives at home. Very cute video.

Lauren has posted both her Top-31 prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft (date TBD) and another 2021 Draft prospect feature. Keep an eye on any of these guys to potentially fall into the second round where the Lightning are currently sitting.

Other Hockey Links

Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke about the possibilities the league is considering when it comes to whether they’ll be able to finish the regular season or playoffs. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also had an interesting quote where he said the league is looking to finalize a “last possible day” by which the season will be cancelled if sports are not allowed to be resumed.

Another Colorado Avalanche player has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Edmonton Oilers shared news on Tuesday that Colby Cave is recovering from emergency surgery after suffering a colloid cyst in the brain. The team tweeted a thread with all the information they could provide at this time. Terrifying situation.