Bargain Free Agents Tampa Bay Lightning Should Chase in 2014 Offseason
The Tampa Bay Lightning should be excited for the 2014-15 season. After a postseason appearance through a lot of adversity, the Bolts have a young team that could be a constant fixture in the playoffs. The excitement for the upcoming season needs to start on July 1, when the Lightning can make a push for some bargain free agents.
Tampa Bay's group of young players did a lot of growing up last season. With Tyler Johnson, Radko Gudas, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik and Kristers Gudlevskis headlining this solid core, it's easy for fans to be excited about the future in Tampa Bay.
As the series against Montreal showed, the Bolts still have a little ways to go to reach the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Adding some of these pieces in free agency could go a long way in helping the Bolts make that climb.
Ryan Callahan earned his spot in the Lightning lineup on the first day. His grit and toughness helped a very skilled team make a small step forward. But his future in Tampa Bay is vague at best.
He was shipped out of New York at the deadline for demanding too much money in contract negotiations. The Bolts would like to re-sign Callahan, but it's doubtful they will chase him too deep into the free-agent pocketbooks.
The Lightning need to make a play for Callahan on the market. They have already put together a "good case", but the money will need to be right on both sides.
Devin Setoguchi can score goals. He had a 30-goal season in 2008-09 with San Jose followed by back-to-back 20-goal seasons. His production has been on the decline recently, as he has moved to Minnesota and Winnipeg.
He has a great shot, and at 6'0" and over 200 pounds, he has a nice frame to play on the third line. He will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. His last deal netted him $3 million per season, but he will be worth less than that on the open market until he turns things around.
Depth at wing is huge, and Setoguchi can provide that. Playing under coach Jon Cooper's system could be the spark to reignite Setoguchi's career.
The Ottawa Senators have some big names that are going to be free agents this summer. Among them is left winger Milan Michalek. Michalek has had a roller-coaster career.
He went from scoring 60 points in 2011-12 down to 14 in the injury- and lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Last year, Michalek was an awful minus-25 player, but he had 39 points.
The Lightning and Senators play completely different styles. When Michalek was in San Jose, a system similar to Tampa Bay, he consistently put up 50-point seasons.
His last deal carried a $4.33 million cap hit. Negotiations could be in a similar range this summer, but a big winger who can shoot the puck and play in all situations would be a great veteran addition to one of the younger lines.
Andrej Meszaros was sent from Philadelphia to Boston this season, but he appeared in just 14 games. He was never a constant fixture in the defensive rotation and will be looking for a new team in 2014-15.
Meszaros had a nice six-year deal worth $24 million, which, oddly enough, started in Tampa Bay in 2008. His stats warrant a similar deal the next time around. Meszaros could help provide stability and consistency on the blue line. He doesn't take penalties and is usually a plus-rated player.
A return to Tampa Bay could be worth looking at for the upcoming free-agent period.
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