Lightning lock up Victor Hedman for eight years
After watching captain Steven Stamkos' negotiations go down to the wire, the Lightning wasted no time Friday in locking up another franchise foundation.
Defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year, $63 million extension ($7.85 million AAV) on the first day he could, exactly one year away from unrestricted free agency. There's a no-trade clause throughout. Agent Peter Wallen told the Times negotiations, which began at last weekend's draft, went "super, super fast," both sides wanting to get it done "badly."
"For me, it was never a doubt," Hedman said. "Staying in Tampa was my No. 1 priority."
The Lightning also signed goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy Friday to a three-year extension $3.5 million AAV), a potential sign of their decision in goal. And GM Steve Yzerman said they're confident they can sign restricted free agent wing Nikita Kucherov.
But some of the biggest heavy lifting has been done, signing Stamkos to an eight-year, $68 million deal Wednesday, and now Hedman. Stamkos, taken No. 1 overall in 2008, and Hedman, No. 2 in 2009, have become among the best at their positions, not to mention key leaders on the Lightning.
""Stammer, Victor these are the two cornerstones," Yzerman said. "It's been a good couple days for the organization."
Hedman said seeing Stamkos sign was a "big boost," the two-longest tenured players in Tampa Bay committing together. Like Stamkos, Hedman said core players will have to "make some sacrifices" in contracts to keep everyone together in chase of a Stanley Cup.
"For me, Stammer, we want to win together," Hedman said. "That was obviously a big goal, to go all the way together with Tampa."
The next priority is Kucherov, who is coming off a 30-goal season and due a hefty raise from the $700,000 he made last season. Kucherov could earn in line with the six-year, $36 million deal the Predators gave forward Filip Forsberg earlier this week, maybe more. Yzerman said both sides are in negotiations, and remains optimistic.
"Hopefully sooner than later," Yzerman said. "I'm confident in that at some point we'll be able to reach an agreement."
The Lightning is also in talks with other restricted free agents Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov. Yzerman said unless he creates some cap space, he's not in position to make any other outside free agent signings.
Tampa Bay has about $13 million in cap space for next season; the cap will be around $73 million. But after Vasilevskiy's extension, it already has $48.6 million designated to 11 players in 2017-18. And both Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson are due new deals after next season; neither were close as of Friday afternoon.
That could very well mean the end for goalie Ben Bishop, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, who is entering the last year of his contract at $5.95 million and could be dealt by this season's trade deadline. Veteran defenseman Matt Carle was bought out Friday, saving $3.6 million each of the next two seasons (with $1.8 million on the cap the next four). Center Valtteri Filppula, under contract at $5 million the next two seasons, could also be on the move, especially if Namestnikov is re-signed.
"Between now and the start of '17-18, if we're going to sign all the players, we're going to have to make some changes," Yzerman said. "To what extent, I'm not sure. We're not going to be able to simply sign every single guy and keep the exact same group together. It's not possible."
But in Stamkos and Hedman, the Lightning has got two big building blocks.