Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Hedman's agent optimistic that extension will happen with Lightning

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lightning fans worrying that D Victor Hedman's contract talks will drag out as long as C Steven Stamkos' might be reassured.

"I would be shocked if this would go for the whole year," Hedman's agent, Peter Wallen, said.

Hedman, 25, the team's top defenseman, has one more year left on his current contract at a $4.25 million salary cap hit. The Lightning can sign him to an extension as early as July 1, one year from unrestricted free agency.

While no talks between the team and Hedman have begun, Wallen said they will be patient, knowing GM Steve Yzerman has a lot of other things to work on, including Stamkos, who was able to start talking to other teams at midnight Friday and will be an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"When (the Lightning) is ready to talk, we'll be here," Wallen said.

The market seems to be getting set high for defensemen with Keith Yandle signing a seven-year, $44.5 million deal ($6.35 million annual average) with the Panthers, who are also reportedly discussing an eight-year, $60 million extension for Aaron Ekblad.

But Wallen said Hedman's priority is winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning. And while no negotiation can be easily predicted, Wallen is optimistic the sides can get something done.

Signings: The Lightning started chipping away at its many restricted free agents Friday, signing three, including RW J.T. Brown and C Cedric Paquette to two-year deals.

D Luke Witkowski signed a one-year deal.

Brown, a key bottom-six forward and penalty killer, received a $2.5 million deal ($1.25 million per year), with Paquette $1.625 million ($800,000 next season, $825,000) in 2017-18.

The team has several restricted free agents to lock up, including RW Nikita Kucherov, a 30-goal scorer who is due a big raise from the $700,000 he made last season. The club has had preliminary discussions with Kucherov's camp but so far preliminary, with no offers yet. There should be more talk leading up until July 1 and after.

RW Alex Killorn, C Vladislav Namestnikov and G Kristers Gudlevskis also are restricted free agents. The team has an estimated $18.3875 million in cap space for next season, according to generalfanager.com.

Yzerman said he hopes to keep all of his restricted free agents as long as they fit within the salary cap.

First pick: With its first-round pick, Tampa Bay went with Brett Howden, a 6-foot-2 center out of Moose Jaw of the WHL, 27th overall. Yzerman said Howden, 18, is strong two-way center with really good hockey sense.

"We feel really good about getting him where we picked," Yzerman said.

Fellow Lightning prospect Brayden Point also played for Moose Jaw.

"Hear he was kind of helping me out," Howden said. "May have to thank him for it."

Cally update: The reason RW Ryan Callahan waited three weeks after the season ended to have hip surgery is because he was hoping to avoid a procedure with rest and treatment, Yzerman said. After deciding to have the surgery, Callahan is expected to be out five months, forcing him to miss the World Cup of Hockey and the first month of the season. Callahan is expected to make a full recovery.

Second day: Tampa Bay has eight picks in today's second day of the draft, which begins at 10 a.m. (NHL Network).

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