Tampa Bay Lightning Will Face Difficult Decisions Regarding Expansion Following Steven Stamkos Re-Signing
Announced Wednesday, the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes are officially over after the superstar forward inked an eight-year $8.5 million dollar/year contract to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A disappointment for some fans in Toronto, Detroit, and Vancouver (among others) who were hoping to sign the all-star center. It seems Stammer is comfortable and willing to finish building what he started down in the Sunshine State. The ultimate goal in hockey is to win the big prize, and apparently Steven Stamkos believes the Tampa Bay Lightning is his best opportunity to do that.
For fans in Toronto, consider this a blessing. While on the surface, the idea of adding a hometown kid to bring Lord Stanley back to Toronto is a feel good story. The signing could have severely disrupt the rebuild plan.
It would have forced Leafs management to make uncomfortable decisions sooner on prospects, and in turn raises the risk of getting it wrong. Between Frederik Andersen, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, there are more than enough reasons for Leafs Nation to get excited moving forward without Stammer.
Stamkos Signing Affects Tampa Bay Lightning Expansion Outlook
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Following today’s signing, GM Steve Yzerman has essentially locked in his seven protected forwards for expansion.
It unfortunately leaves a few players exposed, one of which is very likely to be the player taken by Las Vegas opposed to one of those older d-men with a massive contract (i.e. Braydon Coburn or Jason Garrison).
If the Tampa Bay Lightning decide to keep their goalie tandem together, it could be a strategy to protect the rest of the roster. They could go into the draft consciously accepting that whichever goaltender is left exposed is the likely player taken. Since teams can only lose one player, it wouldn’t matter which forwards/defense were protected.
Should the Lightning decide to trade a goaltender or protect one via pre-arranged trade, it would leave a few tempting forwards for Las Vegas. Below is the forward outlook in expansion:
NMC – no movement clause automatically protected unless player agrees to waive it
That leaves the following players exposed:
Any one of Killorn, Brown, or Namestnikov would be tempting options in expansion.
Given the cap situation over the next two to three years, GM Steve Yzerman will need to consider moving either one of his young forwards, or finding a way to get one or more of those pricey defensive contracts off the books.
After all, a year from now, Tampa Bay needs to find a way to re-sign Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. They also need to hope D Slater Koekkoek doesn’t have a breakout year in 2016-17, or that’s one more contract to sign.
The work should begin now for the Lightning as they construct a plan to keep the right core pieces together.