Salary-cap shadow looms over Lightning’s roster

With not much room, the Lightning has maneuvering to do in the offseason.
DIRK SHADD   |   TimesTampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) carries his equipment bag and clutches his sticks while walking out with center Brayden Point (21) Thursday, April 18, 2019 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
DIRK SHADD | TimesTampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) carries his equipment bag and clutches his sticks while walking out with center Brayden Point (21) Thursday, April 18, 2019 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Published April 21
Updated April 21

TAMPA — There’s a lot to process with free agency just over two months away and the Lightning facing salary-cap decisions.

Here is a breakdown of the roster and what the Lightning has to consider as it sits roughly $1.5 million under the $79.5 million cap, according to the website CapFriendly. Next season’s cap is projected to increase to roughly $83 million.

Foundational players

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ondrej Palat

With Point set to be a restricted free agent July 1, the Lightning will have to adjust its cap to meet what he can command. Point made $686,667 this season, the last of a three-year deal, but will most likely make between $6 million-$8 million in the seasons to come. Point was one of Tampa Bay’s three 40 goal-scorers this season and led the league in power-play goals (20). The only other Lightning forwards expected to make that kind of money next season are Stamkos ($8.5 million) and Kucherov ($9.5 million, up from around $4.7 million this season). Defenseman McDonagh will get a $2.050 million raise, up to $6.75 million, just below Hedman’s $7.875 million. Vasilevskiy ($3.5 million) and Palat ($5.3 million) will maintain their salaries.

Emerging players

Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph, Erik Cernak, Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne, Mikhail Sergachev, Louis Domingue

All these players have made impacts. Only Erne has an expiring contract, and he can be a restricted free agent. The forward made $800,000 this season but is likely to see an increase. Forwards Cirelli and Joseph and defensemen Sergachev and Cernak are under contract for one more season, after which they can be restricted free agents. Backup goalie Domingue can be an unrestricted free agent after next season.

On-the-bubble players

Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, J.T. Miller, Danick Martel, Cedric Paquette, Jan Rutta

Though some of these players have established their worth with the franchise, one or more could be a casualty via trade or free agency as the Lightning makes cap room. Miller is signed for four more seasons at $5.25 million each, Johnson for five more seasons at $5 million each and Killorn for four more seasons at $4.45 million each. Defenseman Rutta, who had a $2.25 million cap hit this season and came to the Lightning from the Blackhawks in the January Slate Koekkoek trade, can be an unrestricted free agent. Forward Martel, who didn’t play much (nine games) after being claimed off waivers in September, made $715,000 this season and can be a restricted free agent. Tampa Bay does like having Martel for depth, but his salary could go toward cap relief or a prospect signing. It’s doubtful that forward Paquette, who can be a restricted free agent, will keep his $1 million salary.

Age casualties?

Ryan Callahan, Braydon Coburn, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman

It’s probable that at least one of these players has worn his Lightning jersey for the last time. Callahan, Coburn and Girardi are the eldest on the roster at 34 (Girardi turns 35 on April 29), and Stralman is 32 (33 on Aug. 1). Forward Callahan, signed for one more season at $5.8 million, did not play as much as he has in seasons prior, partially due to injuries. Defensemen Girardi ($3 million) and Stralman ($4.5 million), who can be unrestricted free agents July 1, were out for much of the latter part of the season hurt. Defenseman Coburn ($3.7 million) also can be an unrestricted free agent. If the Lightning wants any of the free agents back, it’s possible that for family reasons they would take less money to stick around so they could finish their careers in Tampa Bay while making cap room.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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