Lightning GM Steve Yzerman prepares for Round 2 of hard decisions

Published March 4 2017
Updated March 5 2017

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was understandably lauded for his creativity at Wednesday's trade deadline, when he was able to create valuable salary cap space for next season.

But that was just the beginning. Yzerman will have to do significant heavy lifting before the June draft and this summer, when the cap-forced makeover of Tampa Bay's roster will continue.

"Now we've got to make good decisions," Yzerman said.

There will be difficult ones. It helps that Yzerman was able to shrewdly move center Valtteri Filppula and his $5 million cap hit next season to the Flyers without having to give up any high picks or prospects. By dealing goalie Ben Bishop to the Kings, Yzerman ensured that any performance bonuses accrued by wing Jonathan Drouin, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and center Brayden Point remain on this year's cap, not impinging on next year's.

The Lightning has an estimated $18 million in cap space next season, according to the cap website capfriendly.com. But is that enough to sign pending restricted free agents Drouin and forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat this summer?

"It depends on the type of contracts that we sign," Yzerman said. "The terms of their contracts that will affect the cap number."

Some other contract-cutting moves will need to be done to fit all three deals under the cap, plus a veteran backup goalie and the long-needed top-four defenseman. That's why it wouldn't be surprising to see Johnson, Drouin or Palat packaged in a draft or summer deal for that defenseman. You wonder if any of the three was involved in the deal that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk nixed with the Lightning in January.

I still think the Lightning and the defensemen-rich Predators — teams that scouted each other heavily leading up to the deadline — could circle back before the draft. And Tampa Bay could make moves with expansion Las Vegas in order to keep some players who will have to be unprotected in the June expansion draft.

Playoffs or not, this summer will be interesting.

Callahan perspective

When veteran wing Ryan Callahan had to have a followup procedure on his right hip last month, there was natural cause for concern among Lightning fans. It meant that the hip Callahan had surgically repaired in June was still bothering him, forcing him to miss most of the season.

But there seems to be cautious optimism about Callahan's recovery and ability to return, even if it is next season. GM Steve Yzerman said the latest procedure was to deal with scar tissue, not to repair the labrum again.

Scar tissue issues after labrum surgeries are "very uncommon," says regarded orthopedic surgeon Bryan Kelly, who did Callahan's surgery and followup. But Kelly, who couldn't speak specifically about Callahan, said those types of followup procedures don't usually affect a player's chance to return.

"There's no reason to think they couldn't go back to play," Kelly said.

About 100 things can lead to scarring, Kelly said, but that's less worrisome than having to repair the labrum again. As for the labrum impingement surgery that Callahan had, "the return to play in high level professional athletes is 95 percent," Kelly said.

Slap shots

Wouldn't be stunned to see captain Steven Stamkos (knee surgery) participate in his first full team practice this week. … After dealing veterans Ben Bishop (age 30), Valtteri Filppula (32) and Brian Boyle (32), the Lightning is now the third-youngest team in the league, with an average age of 26.4, behind Arizona (26.2) and Carolina (25.7). Wing Ryan Callahan has not been approached about waiving his no-move clause for the sake of the June expansion draft. … Former Lightning GM Brian Lawton, now an NHL Network analyst, placed the Lightning No. 5 in his picks for the top five trade deadline performances by teams. … RW J.T. Brown and his wife, Lexi, plan to be part of a Q&A on Tuesday after the premier of Soul on Ice, a film that explores the history of black athletes in hockey, from 4:45-7 p.m. at Muvico Centro Ybor, 1600 E 8th Ave., Tampa.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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