Tampa Bay Lightning: Can They Make Room For Erik Karlsson?

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 28: {L-R} Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators wait to be introduced during the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena on January 28, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 28: {L-R} Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators wait to be introduced during the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena on January 28, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning are rumored to be interested in signing Erik Karlsson this summer. With little cap space and Brayden Point in need of a contract, how can they afford to bring in Karlsson?

The Tampa Bay Lightning had one of the best regular seasons in National Hockey League history. They followed that up by getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets. After that disappointment, rumors are swirling that they are interested in signing defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Signing Karlsson would make a lot of sense for the Lightning. He is a former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and is a friend of Victor Hedman‘s, who is also a former Norris Trophy-winning defenceman. The pair of Swedish defenders would instantly give the Bolts two of the best blueliners in the NHL.

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The Lightning are set to lose a few defensemen this offseason. Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, and Braydon Coburn are all unrestricted free agents and all are likely to be gone next season. Tampa will have to add some defenders and Karlsson will be the best one available.

However, the problem is, when you are targeting the best player available, you likely have to pay the highest price tag. The Lightning are already going to be close to the cap, so they will have to get creative if they intend on bringing in Karlsson.

The first thing they will have to do is convince him this is his best chance at winning a Stanley Cup. They will obviously a Stanley Cup favorite heading into next season. If Karlsson wants to win, he will have to be willing to take less than the $10 million average annual value he turned down from the Ottawa Senators a year ago.

Lightning general manager Julien Brisebois will have to convince him to take a contract with a maximum cap hit of $7.75 million. This would not be the biggest offer presented to him this summer, so Karlsson would have to choose the low tax state and chance to win over bigger paycheques elsewhere.

The next tricky negotiation would be with Brayden Point. The 23-year-old center just scored 92 points in 79 games. He’s going to want a massive payday, but the Lightning might need to convince him to take just a huge payday instead of a massive one.

Nikita Kucherov signed an eight-year deal with a $9.5 million cap hit after scoring 100 points. Point will have to take less, and sign on for about $8 million if the Lightning are going to have enough left over to sign Karlsson.

Next, they will have to find a way to trade Ryan Callahan without retaining any salary. They can’t buy him out, they can’t bury him in the minors, and they can’t retain a million dollars. The Lightning are going to have to add a sweetener to get someone to eat his whole contract.

Packaging Callahan and the last year of his $5.8 million salary with a solid prospect like Taylor Raddysh will entice another team to take on Callahan’s contract. Still, with Point and Karlsson taking a little less than market value and Callahan being shipped out, the Lightning would be above the salary cap by about $4 million.

Read. 5 Teams Who Should Sign Karlsson. light

That means one more forward is going to have to be sent packing to make room. They have several options they could deal. Alex Killorn has four years left at $4.45 million. Ondrej Palat has three more years at $5.3 million. J.T. Miller is signed for four more years at $5.25 million. Tyler Johnson has five years at $5 million left on his contract.

At this point, it is about finding the right deal. Miller is the youngest of the quarter at 25 years of age. That means other teams would likely offer a bit more for him, but the Lightning would like to hold onto him the most.

Palat has been injured quite a bit in the past four seasons and has not hit the 20 goal mark since 2013-14. Maybe the Lightning would want to part with him because he is the least reliable of the group, but other teams are not going to offer as much due to his injury history.

Johnson scored a career-high 72 points in 2014-15 but has not been able to exceed 50 since. He scored 29 goals this season and is signed for five more years, but will be nearing his mid-30’s by the time the deal expires.

Killorn has been remarkably consistent throughout his career, almost always sitting at 0.5 points per game every season. His predictability and the fact he has the lowest cap hit would intrigue buyers, but the Lightning would miss his production from the third line.

The best option of the four forwards might be to trade Ondrej Palat at the draft. Killorn is a top penalty killer and Miller is used on the top power play. Palat and Johnson play sparingly while shorthanded and are used on the second wave of the powerplay.

Trading Palat would save them $5.3 million and they wouldn’t miss his eight goals as much as they would miss Johnson’s versatility and 29 goals.

The return wouldn’t be huge for Palat, but they could add a decent draft pick and save enough cap space to sign one of the league’s most dynamic defencemen.

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It would be great for them to bring in Erik Karlsson. But, it would come at a huge price and will require some interesting negotiating and roster maneuvering by Julien Brisebois. It will be fun to keep an eye on the Lightning this month to see how they can make room for Karlsson.