Alex Walworth | The Scrum
This Tampa Bay Lightning off-season preview will analyze expiring team contracts. Eight current NHL roster spots as well as 12 others will expire after this season. That list is headlined by longtime Bolt, Alex Killorn. Who’s out and who makes the cut into next years roster puzzle?
After Killorn the expiring NHL player contracts are; Ross Colton, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry, Ian Cole, Tanner Jeannot, Michael Eyssimont, and Brian Elliott. The others are; Cole Koepke, Grant Mismash, Gabriel Fortier, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Rudolfs Balcers, Gemel Smith, Daniel Walcott, Simon Ryfors, Dmitri Semykin, Sean Day, Trevor Carrick, and Maxime Lagace. Many of them have played games in the NHL. Tampa has 49/50 contracts and one exempt junior contract in Roman Schmidt. They also possess rights to a few players that expire after this season that may come into play. One of them, Maxwell Crozier, already has a deal in place for next season while he plays with the Syracuse Crunch. I suspect we may see 19 year old Cameron MacDonald get a contract after the CHL playoffs end and before his rights expire on June 1st.
Alex Walworth | The Scrum
Lightning contracts going out
Out of the gate, I expect Perry, Bellemare, and Cole all are out. A couple guys are on the bubble for one reason or another. Killorn, entirely by cap restraints. He has had a great season, but they simply can’t afford to continue to pay him what he currently makes. Elliott has aged and may even decide to retire. Who Tampa gets as a replacement backup goalie, like Elliott, at his measly cost of 900k, I can’t say. This years stats may not show it, but he’s been one of the Lightning’s more capable backups in recent years. The team was often inconsistent in front of him. He had a few bad stretches too which is why he retires or isn’t re-upped by the Bolts.
Crunch contracts going out
In the minors, I expect Mismash, Labrie, Smith, Semykin, and Lagace to be let go. A few more bubble guys down there. Koepke is a restricted free agent who is arbitration eligible. He got his chance in the NHL at the start of the season and had a disappointing 17 games before being sent down. He had a worse season offensively compared to last year in Syracuse. Will continue to be cheap if they decide to give him another deal.
Fortier is in the same boat. 11 games in the NHL the last two seasons and his numbers with the Crunch slipped despite playing more games. Sean Day was used a lot less this season and his stats reflect that. He was good last year, but I wonder if he has been passed by too many others. Carrick and Walcott are older more seasoned pros who put up great numbers and they could be back to continue to lead the youngsters.
Colton, Jeannot, Balcers, and Ryfors are all restricted free agents following this season. Colton has arbitration rights and his qualifying offer would give him the smallest of raises. His numbers also slipped slightly this season. Jeannot had a good year with 41 points last season, only two more than Colton, but really dropped off in points and penalties. He is also arbitration eligible and his qualifying offer would see him making just under 900k.
Balcers has arbitration rights too. His qualifying offer is just under 800k and he has the most NHL experience with 170 games under his belt between Ottawa, San Jose, Florida, and Tampa. He should be in contention to replace one of our expiring NHL deals. Ryfors hasn’t made his NHL debut yet, but I expect him to be one of the Lightning’s black aces when/if that comes into play. He led the Crunch in goals and upped his point total to 59 this season. He has arbitration rights as well and his qualifying offer would see the same increase as Balcers at just under 800k.
Shaping out the roster
Eyssimont will get a new deal also, but he will be unrestricted. He makes league minimum and should cost that much again in his new deal. With expiring contracts and the cap going up just 1 million, Julien BriseBois will not have much room to work with yet again. That’s a tough spot to be in. About eight spots to fill. Many spots in the minors to decide on as well. Cole’s spot on defense doesn’t really need to be filled because we don’t need to keep eight defenseman on the roster. Myers was extended earlier this year and has been called an NHL defenseman by the brass and has shown as much with the Crunch. He could be the replacement there if that is what they decide to do with him. It is the rest of the forward spots that will be a challenge to fill with cap restraints.
It is safe to assume that we will see Colton, Jeannot, and Eyssimont again next year. I don’t see how Killorn fits in the picture despite his desire to stay. The Lightning would have to find a way to clear space for him and I just don’t see it now or in one year when Brandon Hagel is owed a new deal. The other three roster spots I can see all being filled from within as we already have low priced options there. Balcers, Ryfors, Koepke, Fortier, Felix Robert, Gage Goncalves, and Alex Barre-Boulet come to mind. That would make a very young bottom six if they can’t find another cheap veteran to fill a spot.
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