With one day left before the free agent frenzy, most of the NHL teams announced which of their restricted free agents they would send qualifying offers to and which ones they were going to set free. For the Tampa Bay Lightning their decision was simple: they set them all free to flourish on the free agent market.
Now, don’t panic. There were no RFAs that were expected to suit up for the Lightning this season. All five spent last season with either the Syracuse Crunch or Orlando Solar Bears (or both!) and were expected to do the same in the upcoming season. Those five RFAs were:
Tye Felhaber - Forward
Otto Somppi - Forward
Odeen Tufto - Forward
Alex Green - Defense
Alexi Melnichuk - Goaltender
Somppi (7th round, 2016) and Green (4th round, 2018) were all Lightning mid-to-late round draft picks. Melnichuk was acquired in March of 2022 in exchange for Antoine Morand as the organization was looking to secure some goaltending depth. Felhaber came over in a February trade for Alexi Lipanov as the Dallas Stars and Lightning swapped prospects that had stalled in their development. Tufto was signed as a college free agent.
Somppi, who was 19 on our Top 25 under 25 list last season, and Melnichuk are heading over to Europe to play, so their lack of a qualifying offers wasn’t a surprise. Somppi had regressed a bit after a strong 2020-21 season and the forward ranks are starting to get a little crowded in Syracuse. Tufto was injured at the beginning of the season and never really got on track.
All of the players will be considered unrestricted free agent when the clock strikes noon on Wednesday, free to sign with any team in the league. They can also re-sign with the Lightning who are no longer bound to the rules of qualifying offers (minimum offer must be 110% of their 2021-22 salary). For the players, it’s a chance to find another organization where it might be easier for them to move on, and for the organization it’s a chance to clear the decks on prospects that they are no longer high on.
Of the players, the only real surprise was Green, who had a strong season in Syracuse last year, often paired with Sean Day. In 73 games he put up 26 points (5 goals, 21 assists). Green and Ryan Jones were the only defensemen to log more than 70 games for the Crunch last season and he was more than adequate in his role as a stay-at-home defender. If the 24-year-old Green doesn’t find a deal with another team, it’s possible that he signs back with the Lightning with a similar deal as his previous two-way contract.
According to CapFriendly, a total of 97 players across the league were non-tendered on Monday, flooding the free agent market with some potentially low-cost/low-risk players.
Qualifying Offers for all 32 teams have now been updated on our site.— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 12, 2022
A total of 97 players did not receive QO's today.
The full list can be found here https://t.co/aOHeS28uls
Best of luck in their future endeavors. They are still young enough to latch on to another organization and work their way up through the ranks.
Lightning / NHL News
It’s prospect camp season photo time!
Summer camp is officially in session pic.twitter.com/nNux8OFhl4— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) July 11, 2022
The prospects describe their first day at camp.
“It's very competitive. Everyone’s here to get better and push each other.”— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) July 11, 2022
Lucas Edmond’s breakout season caught the eye of the Lightning [NHL.com]
Based on his age and experience it could be a quick trip to the NHL for the 21-year-old forward. He should start the season in Syracuse, but if there is an injury, he could be an early call-up.
Lightning prospects, draftees take in first day of development camp [Tampa Bay Times]
Isaac Howard practiced with Nikita Kucherov’s stick and all of the prospects went through various drills as they acclimated themselves to the professional lifestyle.
LIGHTNING VISION IS NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD! (Awards*) This one is for the incredible work they’ve done on 2020-21 pregame hype! From the Ice to the Lights Bolts Nation is at the top of the industry. Standing ovation for LV squad #gobolts https://t.co/cmsDZY2CAZ— VoWilliams.eth (@thisisvo) July 11, 2022
The Toronto Maple Leafs have themselves a new goaltender [Pension Plan Puppets]
Matt Murray is making the 4-and-a-half hour drive from Canada’s capital city to the center of the hockey world as the Ottawa Senators sent Murray, a third round pick in 2023, and a seventh round pick in 2024 to Toronto for the always popular future considerations. Ottawa is retaining 25% of Murray’s contract. So, yeah. It’s a trade. Murray hasn’t exactly been consistent since he was traded to the Senators and the Leafs are taking a big gamble if they expect him to be a true number one. Should be fun to watch from a distance.
Avalanche re-sign Valeri Nichushkin [Mile High Hockey]
Getting bought out by the Dallas Stars must seem like a lifetime ago for Nichushkin. The Stanley Cup champion is staying in Colorado as he re-signed with the Avalanche for eight years with an AAV of $6.125 million. Long a statistical darling, Nichushkin had a career year (and sensational post season) last season and turned it into a nice pay day.
Pens reportedly re-sign Rickard Rakell [Pensburgh]
Another potential free agent forward is off the market as the Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly re-sign Rakell to a six-year deal with an AAV of $5 million. That will help soften the blow of Evgeni Malkin choosing to head to free agency.