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Ohlund injury situation awkward for Lightning

SP_342615_SHAD_LIGHTNING_04 (09/21/11 ORLANDO) Tampa Bay Lightning Mattias Ohlund (5) before leaving the game as he is called on a 5 minute elbowing penalty and a game misconduct during first period preseason against the St. Louis Blues at the Amway Center in Orlando Wednesday evening (09/21/11). [Dirk Shadd, Times]
Published Jun. 2, 2013

Mattias Ohlund, because of a serious knee injury, has not played a regular-season minute for the Lightning the past two seasons but still has collected $10.5 million in salary.

Worse for the Lightning, it is possible the defenseman will collect the $6.75 million he is owed in the final three years of his contract even though, as he admitted, "My chances of playing again are very minor."

"Maybe awkward is the right word," Ohlund said of the circumstances. "I clearly understand this has not been a great situation for ownership or management."

The Lightning, though, is probably stuck with it and Ohlund's $3.607 million salary cap hit that came with the seven-year, $25.25 million free agent contract he signed in the summer of 2009:

• Under the collective bargaining agreement, injured players cannot be bought out.

• The Lightning could put Ohlund on long-term injured reserve, but that is tricky and used only if the team is at or very near the salary cap.

Under the long-term IR formula, teams can exceed the salary cap by the amount of the injured player's cap hit minus the team's salary cap room at the time the player is designated.

As an example, if the Lightning had $2 million of cap space when it put Ohlund, with his $3.607 million cap hit, on long-term injured reserve, it would be allowed to exceed the cap by $1.607 million. If the Lightning was at the cap limit, the team would get a $3.607 million cushion.

The Lightning still must pay Ohlund's salary.

• Ohlund could retire and forfeit his salary. But given that the big Swede's injury is from the toll of his first 13 NHL seasons, don't expected general manager Steve Yzerman to push it.

Even if Ohlund retired this summer, Tampa Bay, would be on the hook for a $1.357 million cap hit through the contract's 2015-16 finish, capgeek.com says. That is because the deal provided $4.071 million in "cap relief," the amount during the years Ohlund played in which his salary was greater than his cap hit. The amount would be spread over three years, the time remaining on his contract.

Ohlund, 36, who in February 2012 had what basically was a partial replacement of his left knee, said he has seen "quite a few doctors" during the past year and all agree.

"From a surgery standpoint, there is nothing more that I can do," he said. "Everybody has been absolutely wonderful, management, coaches and everybody with the Lightning. As for how it's going to play out, I'm not completely sure."

Except that he will cost Tampa Bay a lot of money.

DRAFT WATCH: The agent for Russian draft prospect Valeri Nichushkin said his client is "serious" about playing in the NHL and confirmed Nichushkin's two-year deal with Moscow Dynamo of Europe's Kontinental Hockey League was terminated.

The caveat: If Nichushkin, 18, does not make an NHL roster next season, he will be assigned to Dynamo.

"You assign him for a year, and he will be in the NHL the following year," agent Mark Gandler said.

That should be of great interest to the Lightning, which is considering taking Nichushkin with the No. 3 overall pick in the June 30 draft in Newark, N.J. To read more about Nichushkin, go to tampabay.com/blogs/lightning.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8622. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

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