The dust has settled on the 2021-22 NHL season, so that means the Tampa Bay Lightning can start planning to win the 2022-23 Stanley Cup. With the salary cap only going up be $1 million dollars, expect teams, including the Lightning, to be quite busy moving players and their associated salaries in order to improve their rosters. Here are some important dates to keep an eye on throughout the summer.
July 1st - First Buy-out Period Opens
General managers are likely speed-calling each other looking to jettison unwieldy contracts. If they aren’t able to and just want to cut bait, they can always buy the player out. First that player has to clear waivers, so start keeping an eye out for those Tweets. It’s unlikely the Lightning will buy anyone out during this period.
July 7th-8th - NHL Draft
The Lightning currently have 7 picks for the draft. Hey, there are 7 rounds, that works out great! Not quite. The Lightning have a 1st round pick, but then don’t select again until the 4th round (using Chicago’s pick). They have their own picks in the 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds as well as extra picks in the 6th (Detroit) and 7th (New York Rangers).
July 11th - Deadline for Qualifying Offers
The Bolts only have five Restricted Free Agents this season - Tye Felhaber, Otto Somppi, Odeen Tufto, Alex Green, and Alexei Melnichuk. Sean Day and Simon Ryfors had been RFAs, but signed deals earlier this summer. It’s likely that all of their remaining RFAs will receive offers although Somppi has reportedly signed to play in Finland. He might still receive an offer just so the Lightning retain his rights. Anyone who doesn’t receive an offer becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent.
July 12th - First Buy-out Period Ends
RFAs can start speaking with clubs about offer sheets, but can’t sign them until Free Agency starts. It’s the last day pending UFAs can sign an 8-year contract with their own teams. Any deal signed after 11:59 PM EST is limited to 7 years.
July 13th - Free Agency Opens
It’s Christmas in July for NHL teams. Will Evgeni Malkin still be a Penguin? Where is Johnny Gaudreau going to end up? These questions and more will be answered over the next couple of days. Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta, Riley Nash, and Nick Paul are the big names on the Lightning’s free agent list.
July 17th - Deadline for Players with Arbitration Rights to File
RFAs with arbitration rights (in the case of the Lightning it is all of their RFAs) can file for an arbitration hearing if they don’t like the qualifying offer they received. At this point word usually leaks about what the player is looking for and what the club is offering. Negotiations can continue right up until the arbitration hearing begins.
July 18th - NHL Media Heads to their Cabins on the Lake (unofficial)
July 22nd - Qualifying Offers Expire
If a player does not accept their qualifying offer it doesn’t mean they automatically become an unrestricted free agent. They can still negotiate a contract with the team, but have to sign it before December 1st to be eligible to play.
July 27th - August 11th Salary Arbitration Hearings
Those arbitration hearings will take place during this period. You usually hear about the players and teams being wide apart prior to their scheduled hearing, and then 95 out of 100 times they come to an agreement. Unlike in other sports, the arbitrator doesn’t choose one or the other in terms of the contract value. They can assign what they deem a fair value (it usually ends up being somewhere in the middle).
Rarely do things get this far as no one wants to sit in a room and argue about the value of a player. In 2021 there were 19 arbitration hearings scheduled. None of them went to a hearing.
August 13th - Last Day for Issuance of Salary Arbitration Awards
48 hours after last Arbitration award/settlement
In some cases clubs can elect to walk away from a salary awarded through arbitration. In that case the player becomes an unrestricted free agent
5:00 PM on the third day after last arbitration award/settlement
Clubs who have one or more arbitration cases are able to reopen a 48-hour buyout window. This second buyout window allows clubs to be cap compliant after the arbitration awards.
The schedule should be released some time next month. Once that happens we’ll have a better idea of the exact starting dates of prospect camps and training camps. Opening Night in the league is scheduled for October 11th following some Global Series Games in Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, and Finland.
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning announce injuries during exit interviews [Raw Charge]
Seriously, how was Erik Cernak not on this list?
Point tried to return with torn quad muscle [Tampa Bay Times]
Second seems reasonable. Will they remain their after the draft/free agency/trade season?
15 possible trade candidates [SportsNet]
Speaking of trade season, there are no Lightning players on this list, and it’s unlikely they are in the running for any of the players mentioned. Still don’t understand the fascination with trading Alex DeBrincat, but hey writers gotta write about something.