The first piece of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s blue line has fallen into place. Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi and Braydon Coburn all have plenty of experience. They also have two other things in common. They’re all getting up there, with a combined age of 101. All were UFA’s. That is until Bolts general manager Julien BriseBois and Coburn put pen to paper.
The Erik Karlsson sweepstakes swiftly ended when the San Jose Sharks locked up the electrifying blue-liner Monday, signing him to a massive eight year extension. The Lightning also may have been taking a look at Jacob Trouba. That was until Trouba was taken off the market as well in a trade to the New York Rangers.
Monday likely left BriseBois looking around the dressing room for a solution. A solution named Braydon Coburn.
The Decision Made Itself
On Tuesday afternoon, the Lightning re-signed Coburn to a two-year deal worth an AAV of $1.7 million. The deal isn’t shocking, considering Bolts fans nearly unanimously agreed Coburn was the most productive of the aforementioned three last season. He played in 74 games, posting four goals and 23 points while also boasting a plus-four rating.
Coburn nearly matches the two former Rangers on the Lightning in playoff experience, logging 134 career postseason games. Most notably, he scored the game winner in Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings soon after joining Tampa Bay in 2015. He also proved durable recently. His 74 games played were the most out of the trio that also included Girardi and Stralman last season.
According to CapFriendly , after locking up Coburn, the Bolts have approximately $6.87 in projected cap space to play with. That begs the question, what’s next for the Lightning? The answer almost undoubtedly wears #24.
Where to, Ryan?
Ryan Callahan is almost surely to leave the Lightning this offseason. A trade is ideal for the Bolts, as it would likely rid them of Callahan’s $5.8 million cap hit completely. The difficult part for the Lightning? Finding a trade partner. Preferably one with plenty of cap space and in need of some veteran leadership.
A one-for-one for Callahan isn’t really feasible. Tampa Bay would be looking to trade from a position of strength, so another forward or a prospect may be involved if they want anything worthwhile in return. Trading another forward isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it might happen regardless of the Callahan situation to shore up the back end.
The more likely option for the Lightning is to buy out Callahan’s contract. They do save $3.13 million in cap space over the 2019-20 season, followed by a $1.56 million cap hit in 2020-21 from that potential buyout. (via CapFriendly)
Blue Line Bolstering?
As mentioned, Tampa Bay are considered to be in the market for another defenceman. However, the Coburn signing and Cal Foote itching for a chance to crack the big leagues may change that. The Lightning have many veteran forwards who may look expendable at a glance, but again, it isn’t so simple.
Not Impossible, but not Easy
Several of those forwards have no trade clauses (NTC’s), thus complicating things. Yanni Gourde and JT Miller’s NTC’s kick in on July 1st, while Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson have NTC’s right now. While players with NTC’s aren’t unmovable, obtaining a player’s permission to waive a NTC is a different matter entirely.
The Lightning would have to approach the player and ask them to submit a list of teams they would accept or not accept a trade to when their NTC becomes modified. That’s not until 2021 for Tyler Johnson, who’s coming off a 29-goal season. Ondrej Palat’s is also in 2021, while Alex Killorn’s NTC becomes modified a year from now.
Another thing to consider is that Tampa Bay may make another trade simply to dump some cap space heading into this season. That’s up to BriseBois, and whether the cap space he has to play with is enough for an all-star group that failed miserably where it mattered most last season. Oh, and there’s also that not-so-insignificant dilemma of how much they’re going to give Brayden Point on his next contract.
Item one? Check
BriseBois has checked off the first box on his offseason checklist: beginning to figure out his blue-line by dealing with one of his three aging UFA’s. Next of course is Callahan, then it will be interesting to see whether one of Stralman or Girardi stays, whether the Bolts hit the trade market, or Cal Foote finally has his day.
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