Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Big-money contracts tie Tampa Bay Lightning hands as free agency nears

The Lightning has money problems.

It's not that new owner Jeff Vinik can't pay the bills, but expensive, long-term player contracts to which the team is committed have it in a bind.

Free agency begins Thursday, and Tampa Bay needs a No. 1 goaltender, a puck-moving defenseman and a top-six wing. But it is hamstrung by $139.525 million it owes five players whose contracts run a combined 28 years, a remnant of the previous ownership group.

"Realistically, it limits you," general manager Steve Yzerman said.

Add that center Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman are in for substantial salary increases when their entry-level contracts expire in one and two years, respectively. And add a proposed contract extension for wing Marty St. Louis, and Yzerman said he likely will take a cautious approach to free agency.

"To pay a huge premium on July 1, we're not in a position to do that," he said.

"We have more flexibility in shorter-term deals to keep us competitive, to make us more competitive for a year or two going out. But we have to be prepared with some of the contracts we have coming up with some of our younger guys."

The long-term commitments to forwards Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone, and defensemen Mattias Ohlund, Andrej Meszaros and Matt Walker were signed the past two years under former owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie and former general manager Brian Lawton.

Each player underachieved, and Yzerman said he plans next season to evaluate the cost effectiveness of all players and their contracts to see if they fit in.

Assume added scrutiny for the most expensive deals.

"I don't want to just sit here and do nothing for the next year and evaluate," Yzerman said. "At the same time, there are decisions I have to make. I have to keep in mind that core group, that we have to keep commitments to them going forward and keep the (salary cap) space open."

"It's a tough puzzle," Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. "But that's where you have to have patience. You have to give yourself a year to kind of work through it.

"The big decision is, who are your core guys? If they're not the right guys, then you have to move them, and that's not easy to do."

Especially, Penguins general manager Ray Shero said, when extended, expensive contracts are involved:

"I like shorter contracts. You've got entry-level guys making entry-level salaries who are going to jump into their second contracts at a higher level. You have to plan for that, and that flexibility helps you move bodies. It's harder to move contracts."

What will Yzerman do during free agency? It's tough to tell, as there is no word on how close his budget for player salaries will come to the $59.4 million cap for next season.

"We have to be careful with any contract," he said.

"I want to try to improve the team every year. That's my job. But I'm not going to do anything in the short term that jeopardizes what we have to do two, three, four years down the road."

When Yzerman hopes the money problems are solved.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Money pit

The Lightning's long-term contract commitments:

Player Years left Salary

Vinny Lecavalier 10 $75 million

Mattias Ohlund 6 $21.25 million

Ryan Malone 5 $19.5 million

Andrej Meszaros 4 $18.25 million

Matt Walker 3 $5.525 million

Total $139.525 million

Big-money contracts tie Tampa Bay Lightning hands as free agency nears 06/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 8:06am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Durant's Cameron Myers now one of the state's elite RBs

    Footballpreps

    There will come a day when Cameron Myers is stopped, when opposing defenders gang up to prevent him from breaking off big gains.

    Durant senior Cameron Myers recently set a career high in rushing yards — tallying a whopping 393 last week vs. Plant City.
  2. Check out what this former Buc has cooking in Buffalo

    Bucs

    Leonard Johnson is thrilled to extend his NFL career in Buffalo this season, but whenever his playing days are over, the former Bucs cornerback is ready for life after football.

    He's actually pretty excited.

    Buffalo Bills cornerback Leonard Johnson catches a pass during an NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Saturday, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
  3. Koetter: Jameis Winston will test shoulder in practice Friday

    Blogs

    Will he? Won't he? It appears the Bucs' uncertainty over whether quarterback Jameis Winston can play through a shoulder injury Sunday at Buffalo will carry up until the final hours before kickoff.

    Jameis Winston didn't throw at practice Wednesday.
  4. Fennelly: Even frustrated Bucs fans hold out hope

    Blogs

    Many fans wrote back when I threw out an all-points the other day, asking if Bucs fans are perpetually in a state of expecting the worst.

    Bucs fans cheer during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins in August at Raymond James Stadium.
  5. Bucs snapper Garrison Sanborn looking forward to return to Bills

    Bucs

    Throughout his eight seasons with the Bills, whenever former players would come to Buffalo for a game, Garrison Sanborn remembers the place to take them for a reunion dinner was a popular Italian …

    Garrison Sanborn enjoyed just one winning season in eight years in Buffalo. [AP photo]