The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek filed a mailbag article this afternoon, and he leads off the article with a question as to how the Tampa Bay Lightning may allow the Detroit Red Wings to “help” Tampa Bay clear some salary cap space:
In your opinion, what moves will Tampa have to do to get cap compliant before the start of the season? Tharajan G
Given the combined cap hell and NTC and NMC contracts of the Lightning, I do not see how they get out of this especially given the fact that Brayden Point is the only big contract with no movement restrictions. How many big players will go and will they get much in the way of a return? Jeffrey M
If this were an easy problem to solve, it would have been solved already. The fact that it’s still lingering points to the obvious issue: Teams understand the financial corner the Lightning are in and aren’t about to let them wiggle out of it easily. After signing RFA Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year, bridge contract this week, the Lightning are almost $2 million over the salary cap, with two more RFAs (Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak) still to sign. I believe it goes one of two ways for HM Julien BriseBois – either two intermediate-level tweaks or one exceedingly bold move.
The obvious first landing place for any of Tampa’s salary-cap headaches is Detroit, run by Steve Yzerman, the former Lightning GM, and the manager responsible for many of the contracts currently on Tampa’s books. For those who don’t follow it closely, Tampa has three middle of the lineup forwards with no-trade clauses (Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson) and a fourth, Alex Killorn, with a modified no-trade. Of the four, the Lightning presumably value Palat the most. Truthfully, all four are probably overpaid for what they’re producing, which becomes a greater issue in a flat cap world. I see Palat as a likely survivor of the salary-cap purge to come. Johnson is 30, has four years left at $5 million and was waived earlier this year (and there were no takers). So, you’ll need both a sweetener to move his contract and permission from the players’ camp. Complicated, but not impossible.
In a perfect world, I would try to move not just one, but two of the remaining contract headaches (preferably Johnson and Killorn) to Detroit, and be prepared to surrender both a first-round pick and a quality young player to get the Red Wings to bite. Detroit would probably jump on that deal if that quality young player were Cernak, who is highly valued around the NHL. Tampa obviously wouldn’t want to pay that high a price. Sometimes, as an organization, you’re trapped and have to make hard choices. By solving all your financial problems in one fell swoop, you take your medicine, but you also create the necessary flexibility to operate with a little breathing room, as you pursue a Stanley Cup defence.