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Free agency begins with Lightning extending key players and adding depth

Free agent frenzy has begun, and the Lightning wasted no time to extend key members of the team along with making a couple of depth moves to fill the void. Keeping the team cap compliant will be as tough as ever, but there is plenty of time between now at the start of the season to get that sorted out.

 

Replacing McDonagh

Starting off, the Lightning began the day by signing defenseman Ian Cole to a one-year contract worth $3M. Due to the McDonagh trade Tampa had to add a veteran defenseman as replacement. On one hand, Cole will not produce much on the offensive side of the ice. On the other hand, Cole is serviceable on defense which is more important for the Lightning. Later on, Jan Rutta signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins making the addition of Cole more important. Cole will most likely be on the bottom pair and is a low-risk option with the one-year deal.

Welcome back Vladdy

To much surprise the Lightning brought back a familiar name in Vlad Namestnikov. Bolts signed him to a one-year, $2.5M contract. While Palat is still on the market at this time, I feel Tampa signed Namestnikov as a cheaper replacement. Last season with Detroit and Dallas Vlad scored 16 goals and 14 assists for a total of 30 points. With the talent the Lightning have Namestnikov should have no problem finding ways to score along with generating scoring chances for his teammates. Nobody can fully replace Palat, but with it only being a one-year deal this is another low-risk for Tampa.

 

Keeping the core together

Finally, Tampa wasted no time extending key players who were set to hit free agency next summer. Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak all received an 8-year contract extension. Cirelli received an AAV of $6.5M and Cernak $5.2M AAV. Next, Sergachev received an AAV of $8.5M. While that may be a steep price Sergachev is arbitration eligible meaning he could have received a similar or high amount had he not been extended prior to next summer. Due to these extensions Tampa will again have to make a trade or two to be within the salary cap. Alex Killorn will be a player to look out for as free agency carries on.

Preparing for the future

To summarize, despite the cap crunch the Lightning were able to keep the core intact along with adding more depth pieces to keep the team competitive. Palat will most likely move on, and I sense more trades are on the horizon in order to regain cap space. Unfortunately, we also learned that Cirelli and Zach Bogosian will be out 4-6 months as they recover from shoulder surgery. Hopefully the salary cap does increase next year as Ross Colton will be a RFA in 2023/2024 and the extensions will count towards the cap next season.

 

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