Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning signs defenseman Victor Hedman to eight-year extension

TAMPA — After watching captain Steven Stamkos' negotiations go down to the wire, the Lightning wasted no time in locking up another franchise foundation.

Defenseman Victor Hedman on Friday signed an eight-year, $63 million contract extension ($7.875 million annual average) on the first day he was eligible for an extension, exactly one year from when he could have become an unrestricted free agent. He has a no-trade clause throughout the deal.

Agent Peter Wallen said negotiations began at last weekend's draft and went "super, super fast," with both sides wanting to get a deal done "badly."

"For me, it was never a doubt," Hedman said. "Staying in Tampa was my No. 1 priority."

When the deal goes into effect for the 2017-18 season, Hedman will be the league's second-highest-paid defenseman, behind the Predators' P.K. Subban, who makes an average $9 million annually.

The Lightning also signed goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy on Friday to a three-year extension worth $3.5 million annually, a potential sign of its decision in goal. And general manager Steve Yzerman said the Lightning is confident it can sign restricted free agent wing Nikita Kucherov.

But some of its biggest heavy lifting has been done, It signed Stamkos to an eight-year, $68 million deal Wednesday, and now Hedman. Stamkos, taken No. 1 overall in the 2008 draft, 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 that seeing Stamkos sign was a "big boost," the two current longest-tenured players in Tampa Bay committing to stay together. Like Stamkos, Hedman said core players will have to "make some sacrifices" in contracts to keep everyone together to keep chasing a Stanley Cup championship.

"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 get something in line with the six-year, $36 million deal the Predators gave forward Filip Forsberg this week, maybe more. Yzerman said the sides are in negotiations and he remains optimistic they'll get something done.

"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 restricted free agents Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov. Yzerman said that unless he creates some salary cap space, he's not in a position to make any outside free agent signings.

Tampa Bay has about $13 million in cap space for next season, when the cap will be around $73 million. After Vasilevskiy's extension, it has $48.6 million designated to 11 players for 2017-18. And Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson are due new deals after next season; neither were close to extensions Friday afternoon.

Vasilevskiy's extension 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. Though Yzerman said it's possible Bishop and Vasilevskiy start the season in Tampa Bay, one will have to be dealt before the trade deadline or be lost in the June expansion draft.

Veteran defenseman Matt Carle was bought out Friday, which saves the Lightning $3.6 million each of the next two seasons (and $1.8 million on the cap in the next four). Center Valtteri Filppula, under contract at $5 million for each of 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 two big building blocks.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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