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Lightning Round: Teams begin to make moves for the upcoming drafts

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The expansion draft and entry draft are right around the corner so expect a lot of moves this week.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild sent a minor tremor through the NHL world as they announced that they would be buying out the contracts of two long-time veterans, forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. After spending their last nine years in Minnesota, the two will be free agents this summer. Both players signed 13-year deals back in 2012 (when players were able to sign for more than 8 years) and still have quite a bit of money left on the deals.

The Wild will save some money in the short term (ideal during the flat cap) and hopefully will be able to absorb the dead money when the cap bumps up in a couple of seasons. Cutting them also allows the Wild to move in some younger players and figure out contracts for a couple of their Restricted Free Agents. Both players will likely find employment with some team for next season (Geo speculated on Twitter that Suter could be a fit for the Lightning if Ryan McDonagh heads off to another team).

Paired with the Duncan Keith trade on Monday it’s obvious that teams are working to get their line-ups in order prior to having to submit their expansion protection lists this weekend. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a few more of these deals happen over the next couple of days.

Could the Lightning also go with the buyout route? Possibly, but they are likely to wait to see what shakes out over the next week. It’s likely that a buyout would be a last resort to their cap issues as they would rather bring back some asset, no matter how minimal, in exchange for a team taking a player off of their hands. With the cap staying flat this year and next, it’s unlikely they want to be saddled with a bunch of dead money.

Lightning Links

Speaking of the expansion draft, Geo took a shot at what the Lightning’s list might look like when they submit it to the league. Even with a side deal, they are likely to lose a pretty key player from this year’s championship squad.

If I was in Seattle’s shoes with this protection list, I immediately take Yanni Gourde. In my opinion, he has the most value of the three, and certainly more value than Joseph, Colton, or Foote. While we’ve been referring to Gourde’s line as the “Third Line” since the Bubble last season, the reality has been that Gourde’s line is the second line.

In his year-end press conference, Julien BriseBois detailed a few more of the Lightning injuries. Victor Hedman played through a torn meniscus, Nikita Kucherov played with a flak jacket and a nerve block injection due to his broken rib, while Ryan McDonagh and Barclay Goodrow had broken hands.

Joe Smith shared his thoughts on the Lightning’s boat parade on Monday.

It’s like the Lightning didn’t want this to end, and for good reason, as the team is expected to look much different next season due to the salary cap crunch. If this was Tampa Bay’s “last day of school,” as coach Jon Cooper put it, it was one hell of a graduation party. The crowd certainly wasn’t ready to go home.

Hockey News

Montreal took the interim label off of Dominque Ducherme’s title. He will be their head coach for the next three seasons. Taking a team to the Stanley Cup Final usually earns you a vote of confidence from the executives.

A strong playoff performance saw the team reach the Stanley Cup Final with a 13-9 record. He was replaced by Luke Richardson for six games where the team went 3-3. Ducharme became the third straight interim coach to lead his team to the Stanley Cup Final. Craig Berube and Rick Bowness also received the full-time job following the playoffs.

In Nashville, Pekka Rinne announced his retirement after 15 years in the league.

I also realized the end was near when he [Juuse Saros] told me he had posters of me on his wall back in Finland, and that he watched me a lot on YouTube. (Tip for other athletes: When the guy trying to take your spot says that to you, it might be time to retire). Seriously though, most people know it now — Juuse is the real deal.

The NHL is planning to return to some semblance of a pre-Covid norm for next season. They plan on having 82 games with teams returning to their traditional divisions. Vaccinated players will be able to travel and interact with no restrictions with the season beginning in October and ending in April. There still hasn’t been a decision on if NHL players will participate in the Olympics. Expect that announcement to come within the next 10 days as the league is expected to release their schedule for next season on July 23rd.