Tampa Bay Lightning Most Likely to Be Playing Elsewhere in 2014-15
The Tampa Bay Lightning's successful 2013-14 campaign ended in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which turned the page to an offseason of questions with the roster. The Bolts have a handful of free agents, buyout candidates and cuts that project to a group of players likely to be playing elsewhere next season.
According to CapGeek, The Lightning have 15 roster players signed for next season and an estimated $23 million in cap space. Some big pieces are already locked up like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Matt Carle and Ben Bishop, but others will be at the negotiating table once free agency begins.
As the Bolts prepare for the impending free agency, here are the players that are most likely to be playing elsewhere in 2014-15.
Unfortunately for both parties, the Anders Lindback experiment largely failed. Lindback never played his way into a full-time goaltender spot and has probably played his last game as a member of the Lightning.
In two years with the Bolts, Lindback was 18-22-3 with a 2.90 goals-against average. He was good at times, but he didn't take the next step in his career. He will be a restricted free agent this offseason, but it is highly unlikely that Lindback will get an offer from Tampa Bay.
With the signing of Andrei Vasilevskii, Tampa Bay will have a solid competition for the backup goaltender spot.
Ryan Malone's production and presence has been dwindling over the past few seasons. After a 48-point campaign in 2011-12, Malone put up eight points two years ago and just 15 last season. Meanwhile, his number of games lost to injury seems to be increasing.
His size and physical play were a benefit to the Lightning this season, but $4.5 million per year is a lot of money to pay a fourth-line player. The Bolts are a young squad that needs some veteran leaders, but Malone has helped his case off the ice.
On April 12, he was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession. For an organization run by such a strong ownership group, it's hard to see Malone as a part of this franchise in the future.
He might be a compliance buyout if the Bolts can't get anything on the open market.
Brian Lee just simply fell on hard times in Tampa Bay. After coming over from the Ottawa Senators, Lee never got his feet going for the Lightning. He heads into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent after playing in just 42 games in three seasons.
Lee missed all of last season due to injury, but he didn't provide much positive spark when he was on the ice either. He was a minus-19 player with just eight points for the Bolts.
Lee will need to recover from injury and make an impact somewhere else.
Sami Salo has represented his team, his country and himself in a respectable manner throughout his career. After a long career with the Vancouver Canucks, Salo joined the Bolts in 2012-13 and was a gamer.
As a stay-at-home defenseman, Salo brought stability to an often overmatched blue line. He was rarely out of position defensively and turned in hard-working performances on a nightly basis.
One statistic should stand out for fans looking to define Salo's Lightning career. He was plus-16 in two seasons with the Bolts. For a team that struggled defensively, he was a rock.
The Lightning are developing young prospects like Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr and Slater Koekkoek. With an expiring contract and a push for youth on the blue line, Salo should be shown off with a respectful tip of the cap.
The Lightning's big trade deadline move was to acquire Ryan Callahan, knowing that his price tag was steep and the contract was up this offseason. Callahan had requested around $7 million per year from New York. They weren't going to pay that price, so he was moved to Tampa Bay.
Callahan backed off his demands to the tune of a seven-year deal worth around $37 million. Even that price is pretty steep.
The Lightning have a wealth of young talent. If Callahan gets $6.5 million a year, he would be just $1 million behind Steven Stamkos annually, and those two players aren't even close to the same value. Valtteri Filppula makes $5 million per season for additional perspective.
Callahan is definitely an asset to the team. He provides a lot of energy, and the Lightning should push to re-sign him this offseason. Hopefully it is around the $5 million-per-season range. If it's not, we will probably see Callahan in a new uniform next season.