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Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Before the NHL draft, Tampa Bay GM confirms veteran forward won't be back but isn't retiring, either.

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.

Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone season with the Lightning, finishing with 13 goals and 16 assists. With the team needing salary-cap room to keep other younger players longterm, his departure will create an opening for the 2018-19 roster.

"I've spoken with Chris, told him we're not going to be offering him a contract," Yzerman told reporters Friday in advance of the NHL draft. "He wants to continue to play. That was clear. He wants to play."

In advance of free agency, Yzerman said he hopes to be able to sign all of the team's restricted free agents: forwards J.T. Miller, Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne, as well as defenseman Slater Koekkoek and goalie Louis Domingue.

Tampa Bay traded away goalie Peter Budaj, so Yzerman said his preference would be to have Domingue as his backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy in the upcoming season, with contract discusssions but no agreement reached yet.

— On not having a first-round pick tonight, having traded it to the Rangers in February: "We got Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller. We can live without the first. It's not something you want to do or plan to do every year. At times, you have to make those decisions. We're excited. We have seven draft picks. It's a challenge for our scouts now to go to work and find prospects. We believe these guys have done a good job at finding prospects beyond the first round."

— On potentially trading back into the first round: "It's certainly worth looking into. … I've explored those possibilities. Unless I want to move a good player off our team for a first-round pick, which doesn't make sense to do that, I don't see us being able to get anything done tonight."

— On Victor Hedman winning the Norris Trophy: "We're very happy for Victor, obviously. As you all know, he's a really good person, really good man, such a great attitude and a fun guy to have around. He's played really, really well. Each year he's gotten better and better. Such a huge part of our team on the ice and in the locker room."

— On finding replacements for associate head coach Rick Bowness and assistant Brad Lauer. "Soon. We'll have a coaching staff by the time training camp starts."