Tampa Bay Lightning won't spend to the cap, says a "comfortable" GM Steve Yzerman
The Tampa Bay Lightning will not spend to the salary cap next season, said general manager Steve Yzerman, who quickly added that he is "very comfortable" that what he will spend "is very workable with our roster and and with our ability to improve our roster with our commitments."
The cap will be $59.4 million this season. Tampa Bay, with 12 players under contract and two others -- Vinny Prospal and Todd Fedoruk --being paid with buyouts is at $39.37 million.
Yzerman spoke Wednesday as he got ready for his first free-agent signing period as Tampa Bay's new GM with the priorities to 1) sign a goaltender and 2) sign a defenseman that can move the puck and help on the power play. Yzerman reiterated he is not looking to dive into the deep end of the free agent pool, and not to be surprised if the team does not immediately sign a player as the elite players get signed to big-money, long-term deals and the Lightning waits for the markets to settle.
"I'm not going to sign a contract that doesn't fit into the long-term plan," he said. "We intend to be very selective and very careful. It's no secret on July 1 you're paying a premium, and I don't think we're in a position to pay premiums to guys. We'll wait into the summer and try to address our needs as free agency cools off a little bit."
Yzerman would not divulge who he hopes to sign, but speculation is the team might go after Blues goalie Chris Mason. There also is a growing sentiment Tampa Bay might have interest in Devils defenseman Paul Martin but only if Martin would limit the term of his contract to about three years and was willing to make around what he did last season: $4.5 million.
"It's just important to stay disciplined," Yzerman said. "I'm not going to overpay."
Which brings us back to what Yzerman called the "loose budget" he and owner Jeff Vinik have hit agreed to. Yzerman did not say how much the Lightning has committed to player contracts, but added, "We're not going to spend to the cap, but I'm very comfortable."
Yzerman also said that if he determined a player move would help the team, he is confident he could go to Vinik and make a case to go beyond the budget.
"Jeff has said to me, 'If you have a situation that goes beyond our budget, we'll certainly talk about it if it makes sense for our club in the long term,' " Yzerman said. "He said from day one he's not going to be restrained financially. Having said that, I'm not going to be irresponsible and take advantage of my position. But he's reiterated to me that if something makes sense for the club, and it's the right thing to do in the long term to come to him and let him know."
Yzerman hit on some other topics:
* He said he has interest in re-signing defenseman Kurtis Foster, but hasn't yet extended an offer. "My inclination, at this stage, is that they're going to look for a significantly higher number" than what Tampa Bay wants to pay.
* Yzerman said he has plans to this week speak with the agent of defenseman Paul Ranger, who missed all of last season with a personal issue. Yzerman said he is making no assumptions about Ranger's plans, but will be ready if he wants to return. "We'd like to bring him back. ... So, I'm not going to box myself into a position that if he comes back I don't have a spot for him," Yzerman said. "I'm going to plan that, hopefully, we might come back."
* Yzerman said big Russian goalie Vasily Koshechkin is not in the team's plans for next season, mainly because the timing is not right. Koshechkin, 27, a star in the KHL, will not be subject to the entry-level system if he waits one more year to sign, meaning his contract will not be constrained. The Lightning will retain his rights.