It's a cap world, which is why the Tampa Bay Lightning is talking to Ryan Martin
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said one of his first priorities will be to sign star center Steven Stamkos to a contract extension. But his first hire might very well be capologist Ryan Martin, a colleague from Yzerman's time with the Red Wings. The two moves would not be mutually exclusive.
Today's NHL is as much about managing the salary cap as getting the right players. Stamkos' new deal likely would not kick in until the 2011-12 season; he has one year left on his rookie contract that pays a base salary of $875,000. But when that bill comes due, there could be a lot of stress on a team that already has committed $27.8 million to six players for 2011-12 plus another $1.167 million to Vinny Prospal as part of a six-year buyout process.
Some of that falls on Yzerman to make smart personnel moves to limit that exposure. The knee-jerk reaction would be to look at Vinny Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million contract that will pay $10 million the next six seasons, and that is fair, though there is plenty of other fat that can be trimmed to give the team the same savings. Whatever the decisions, it will help to have someone on board, such as Martin, who knows the ins and outs of the cap.
How imminent is Martin's hiring? The Detroit Free Press reported Thursday that Martin is no longer taking part in the Red Wings' organizational meetings.
How imminent is getting Stamkos a new contract? Well, the sides officially cannot speak until July 1, when the last year of Stamkos' current deal begins.
In other scuttlebutt, USA Today reported Yzerman also might be looking at Red Wings pro scout Pat Verbeek. The talk is Verbeek is very settled in Detroit and would need a fantastic offer to be lured. Funny, the same was said about Yzerman.