It was clear from the exit interviews following the Stanley Cup Final that Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois and forward Nick Paul had a lot of interest in signing a new contract. The rumblings have continued since, with word last night that the two sides were closing in on an extension. This morning, we got a more concrete report from Elliott Friedman that the new contract will be for seven years with a cap hit of just over $3 million.
Hearing Nick Paul extension in TB will come in at 7 years, at just over a $3M AAV— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2022
Now it’s official with the Lightning announcing that he has been signed to a seven year contract with a $3.15 million cap hit.
Paul joined the Lightning at the trade deadline in exchange for Mathieu Joseph after spending seven seasons with the Ottawa Senators. In 21 regular season games with the Bolts he posted 5 goals and 9 assists. The 26-year-old proved his value in the playoffs, though as he added another 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 23 games, including a memorable two-goal performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Seven of their series. With Brayden Point’s absence following that series, Paul stepped up his role, averaging 18:18 minutes a game. A pair of lower body injuries slowed him a bit in the Stanley Cup Final.
While I haven’t done a full article here on Raw Charge covering the scenarios, I’ve had more than a few conversations since Paul was acquired from the Ottawa Senators around the trade deadline on what it would take to hang on to him. Something around $3 million was always the number I was working with to make it possible for not only this season, but also 2023-24 when the Lightning will need to navigate new restricted free agent contracts for Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, and Cal Foote, all of whom will be in line for some level of raise. I have been able to see a reasonable path forward to making those contracts work with a $3 million cap hit for Paul. There’s also been rumors that the escrow payback could be done at the end of next season which would mean a huge raise in the salary cap in 2023-24 that could make all of my calculation moot anyways.
The seven year term on the deal is a little bit concerning though. It’s usually not a good idea to sign depth guys to such deals. For Paul, this will mean that he’ll be 34 at the end of the contract and will likely be at or at least very near the end of his NHL career by the time the contract is over (or perhaps before). However, if that’s what it took to get this lower cap hit from him than some were projecting he could get as a free agent, I’m fine with taking that risk. Especially considering that the salary cap should rise by a very large amount over the course of this contract.
Before signing Paul to an extension, the Lightning have $5.65 million in cap space to work with while having ten forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders signed. Ideally, the team will want to have thirteen forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders on the opening night roster. Since the league minimum is $750,000 and there are four roster spots to fill, that means the Lightning have $2.65 million beyond the minimum salary for signings. With Paul signing for $3.15 million, that means the Lightning have $250,000 ($2.65 million - ($3.15 million - $750,000)) beyond minimum salaries to play with for prospects to fill spots and potentially re-signing Jan Rutta. They can get some more wiggle room if they only carried one extra skater on the roster instead of two.
There’s also been reports that the Lightning have approached Ryan McDonagh about facilitating a trade even though he has a full No Trade Clause. That means he’s in full control. If he doesn’t want to leave, he stays. If the teams he wants to go to can’t work out a deal, he stays. The Lightning are trying to move him so that they can possibly re-sign Ondrej Palat. The trade of McDonagh would also make it a little easier to re-sign Rutta.
There’s still a lot up in the air for the Lightning on what they’ll do. They’ve got a couple weeks left until free agency opens and JBB will definitely be working the phones to try and make some things happen. Even if they don’t, Paul’s re-signing is a big boost for the forward depth of this team, especially if they’re unable to hang on to Palat.
We’ll see what happens over the coming weeks. We’re also a week away from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft where the Lightning have a first round pick for the first time in quite a while.
Official Pres Release:
LIGHTNING SIGN F NICK PAUL TO A SEVEN-YEAR CONTRACT
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Nick Paul to a seven-year contract worth 3.15-million AAV, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced.
Paul, 27, skated in 21 games for the Lightning during the regular season after joining the team prior to the trade deadline and recorded five goals, 14 points and a plus-four rating while winning 56 percent of his face-offs. Making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in 2022, Paul played in all 23 postseason games for the Lightning, netting five goals, tied for fifth most on the Bolts, and tallying nine points. He scored his first two career playoff goals in Game 7 of a First Round series against Toronto to pace the Bolts’ 2-1 victory and clinch the series. Paul also scored twice in the Stanley Cup Final versus Colorado, including the game-winning goal in Game 3. The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Paul ranked third in the NHL for penalties drawn (9) and tied for fourth among NHL forwards for average shorthanded time on ice (2:57) during the 2022 Playoffs.
The Lightning acquired Paul on March 20, 2022 from Ottawa in exchange for forward Mathieu Joseph and Tampa Bay’s own fourth-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft. Prior to joining Tampa Bay, Paul skated in 59 games for the Senators during the 2021-22 season, recording 11 goals and 18 points, ranking sixth on the Sens for goals. He set career highs for games (80), goals (16), assists (16), scoring (32 pts.), penalty minutes (39), power-play goals (2), shots (166) and blocked shots (56) between Tampa Bay and Ottawa in 2021-22.
Paul, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, was originally selected by Dallas in the fourth round, 101st overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft. He made his first NHL appearance February 16, 2016 with the Senators and spent parts of seven seasons in Ottawa before being traded to the Lightning. He’s notched 34 goals and 80 points in 248 career NHL games.