No offer sheet for Meszaros unless ...
Let's start here. The Lightning does not have the compensation it would need to give the Senators in order to sign disgruntled Ottawa defenseman Andrej Meszaros to an offer sheet. Based on what it likely would take to sign him (the Ottawa Sun reported it would be about $5-million), the Lightning would have to give Ottawa first-, second- and third-round draft picks as compensation. Right now, the Lightning's third-round pick is in the hands of the Penguins. It is confusing because Tampa Bay has a third-round pick, acquired from San Jose in the Dan Boyle deal. But NHL rules (10.4 of the collective bargaining agreement) say compensation must be with a team's original draft picks. Tampa Bay sent its third-round pick to the Penguins in the June deal for the rights to Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts.
Is the Lightning talking to the Penguins? You would think it would at least explore the possibility of a deal. (Hey, how would you like Michel Ouellet back?)
It would make sense the Lightning would be interested in Meszaros, shown here battling Boyle last season. He will be 23 on Oct. 13. He has 16 goals and 71 points the past two seasons and last season had six power-play goals.
But it also makes sense that Tampa Bay would rather trade for Meszaros than sign him to an offer sheet, and the scuttlebutt out of Ottawa is the Lightning spoke to the Senators on Thursday. The Lightning already is close to the $56.7-million cap. Another $5-million in salary would send the team in the opposite direction of its stated goal of trimming some of that payroll before the season. A trade would accomplish that as the Senators could have their pick of several decent forwards, including Ouellet and Jussi Jokinen, along with draft choices or prospects.
Going the offer sheet route has much uncertainty. Even if the Lightning and Penguins get together and find common ground, the Senators, rather than lose Meszaros for nothing, could ultimately match Tampa Bay's offer. Even that process, though, could help Tampa Bay as acquiring the third-round pick from Pittsburgh could involve sending the Penguins some players which, again, would lighten the Lightning's payroll.
To take this to an even further extreme, the Lightning would have to sign Meszaros to a contract worth less than $4-million in order for the compensation to decline. But even that creates a problem as the next lower level of compensation also includes a third-round pick.
Complicating all this is Canada's TSN reported Meszaros already has signed an offer sheet, though the Senators denied it. If true, this whole conversation is moot.
That is a lot of moving parts.