The Lightning will not spend to the $59.4 million salary cap next season, though general manager Steve Yzerman said he is "very comfortable" with the "loose budget" owner Jeff Vinik set entering today's start of free agency.
"It's very workable with our roster and with our ability to improve the roster," Yzerman said Wednesday. Vinik has said the team will not be constrained financially. Yzerman said he has assurances the budget will be flexible:
"Jeff has said to me, 'If you have a situation and it goes beyond our budget, we'll certainly talk about it. He said from Day 1 he's not going to be restrained. But having said that, I'm not going to be irresponsible and take advantage of my position." Yzerman wants wiggle room in case he has to add payroll during the season (see cap chart below).
FOSTER UPDATE: A day after defenseman Kurtis Foster said he was disappointed with the lack of progress on a new contract, Yzerman said, "We definitely have interest in him coming back." Still, Yzerman said he has not extended an offer and expects Foster, an unrestricted free agent, "is going to look for a number significantly higher" than what Tampa Bay will offer. Foster, 28, is coming off a breakout season. The Penguins are believed to be interested.
RANGER UPDATE: Yzerman said he will try soon to speak to the agent for Paul Ranger to try to determine the defenseman's plans. Ranger, 25, missed most of last season because of a personal issue. "My thought right now is I'm not going to box myself into a position that if he comes back, I don't have a spot for him," Yzerman said. "I'm going to plan that hopefully he might be back, but it's too early to comment because I haven't talked to his agent at all."
BIG MAN OFF CAMPUS: The Lightning will not sign big Russian goalie Vasily Koshechkin this year, Yzerman said. It comes down to money. Koshechkin, 27, a 2002 draft choice and a star in Russia's KHL, can sign for much more if he waits another year, when he will be too old to fall under the entry-level contract limits.
Around the league: In another move to deal with their salary cap problem, the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks sent wing Kris Versteeg and a prospect to the Maple Leafs for forward Viktor Stalberg and two prospects. ... The Flyers re-signed goalie Michael Leighton, who replaced injured Brian Boucher in the playoffs and led them to the Cup final, to a two-year, $3.1 million deal.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.