Tampa Bay Lightning's Biggest Takeaways from the Start of Free Agency
The free-agent frenzy wasn’t so frantic for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the little movement has a few things we can take away from it. Teams around the league are picking up pieces and rebuilding, while the Lightning are staying fairly quiet.
With one big signing, general manager Steve Yzerman and the rest of the front office have filled a hole and spent a good chunk of money. With minimal options left, here is what we can take away from the start of free agency.
Vinny, Vidi, Vici
Tampa Bay let a 14-year veteran go with regret, which seemed like a great idea. Based on Vincent Lecavalier’s nearly $8 million salary-cap hit, the Lightning went in a different direction.
The newly vacated second-line center could have provided prospects like Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov or Alex Killorn an opportunity to shine. Tampa Bay decided to look to outside help and potentially undermine the confidence in coach Jon Cooper and his growing Syracuse Crunch pipeline.
The Lightning solved that No. 2 center vacancy with the signing of former Detroit Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula. Though it certainly wasn’t a player-for-player trade, this move can and should be scrutinized next season.
Lecavalier’s contract never panned out, but he is still one of the most decorated players in Lightning history. He was replaced by Filppula’s five-year, $25 million contract.
Yzerman—with obvious ties to Detroit—said of the new acquisition (via Tampabay.com):
"He's just a well-rounded player," said Yzerman, who played four games as Filppula's Red Wings teammate in 2005-06, then watched him for four years as a team vice president. "We didn't just sign him for point production. Our team can score goals. I like the rest of his game. He's good defensively, good on faceoffs and a good skater. He really fits what we're trying to do here."
One (signing) and Done
With the $5 million per year dished out to Filppula, the Lightning have just over $2.6 million left in salary-cap room. With the frenzy from the first day of free agency over, it doesn’t look like Tampa Bay will be doing much more this offseason.
The prospect development camp is currently underway, which should give the coaching staff its first opportunity to pencil in the depth chart. The Lightning are probably done in free agency, but they may be open to a trade.
Tampa Bay should be quiet on the free-agent front now. With such little cap space, the Lightning’s best opportunity to improve will be through trade.
With Lecavalier’s buyout, Ryan Malone could be the next big piece on the move this offseason. If Malone moves, the Bolts would move his $4.5 million cap hit and open up a top-six forward spot for Drouin.
In the next few weeks it will be interesting to see if the Lightning shop Malone and what type of compensation they are offered if they place him on the market.