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Is Alex Killorn good enough to stay on the Lightning’s roster?

Killorn brings consistency to the ice, but his $4.5 million contract creates questions about his future in Tampa Bay
Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrates his hat trick against the Washington Capitals on March 16. The game proved to be one of Killorn's defining moments in 2018-19. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrates his hat trick against the Washington Capitals on March 16. The game proved to be one of Killorn's defining moments in 2018-19. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 13

(This is the ninth in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster. Up next: Anthony Cirelli)

TAMPA — He put one shot on net from the boards, and it skipped off a defender and past the goalie.

Then he skipped ahead on a rush and knocked in a rebound.

Then in the waning seconds, he hustled after a loose puck and shot it into the empty net.

One by one, each of the shots reached the back of the net until Alex Killorn had notched his third goal of the night.

The first hat trick of Killorn’s career came in one of the Lightning’s biggest games. The Lightning had waited nearly all season to play the Capitals — 72 games to be exact — and that only made the stakes higher after it faded against Washington with consecutive shutout losses in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Nikita Kucherov achieved superstar status, but there's still something missing

Emotion played a role in Tampa Bay’s 6-3 victory that night, but Killorn’s play also proved pivotal. He’s fluid yet physical. He’s not the fastest skater, but skates well and smartly finds ways to create scoring opportunities.

It’s the same style of play he has shown Tampa Bay for seven seasons. He’s one of the core players that has consistently shown up for Tampa Bay.

The problem, however, may lie in the fact he’s in a middle group. Good not great, his hefty contract lingers in a time where the franchise looks for cap money to re-sign emerging superstar Brayden Point.

You can’t call Killorn an offensive star by any means, and he didn’t quite contribute this season the way he did in 2017-18. However, other teams covet his presence and the quiet leadership he lent to Tampa Bay’s third and fourth lines.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Mikhail Sergachev's versatility filled various voids for the Lightning this season

Killorn scored intermittently, not really having a hot streak, but not having a drought where he didn’t replenish with a goal or assist here and there.

He even notched the league’s first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs on a shorthanded breakaway against Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

J.T. Miller and Yanni Gourde, frequently Killorn’s third- and fourth-line mates, will make more than Killorn for the 2019-20 season. Tyler Johnson currently makes $5 million a season.

Is Killorn’s steady play good enough to keep him on the roster at $4.45 million a season? Or is it just enough to prompt executives to consider other options?

In the end, the choice may come down to Killorn’s consistency versus Killorn’s contract.

Killorn’s season

High: Killorn’s first career hat trick in Tampa Bay’s first win over the Capitals, the reigning Cup champions. It helped Tampa Bay notch a 6-3 win at home on March 16.

Low: Killorn sustained a left knee injury in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs against Columbus, yet, he still played in Game 4. In his exit interview, he said he had a slight tear in his MCL that would require rehab in the off-season.

By the numbers:

82 games played this season, the second-straight year he has played in every game

18 goals this year, one goal short of matching a career-high and a count that included two power play goals and two game-winning goals

22 plus-minus, matching his career high from 2017-18

40 points this season, ninth on the Lightning’s roster

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning trainer Tom Mulligan attends to right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) who was injured during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. Lightning right wing Mathieu Joseph (7), center Brayden Point (21) and defenseman Erik Cernak (81) look on. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Last year’s NHL MVP was injured blocking a shot early in the Lightning’s 5-2 loss Saturday
  2. Lightning coach Jon Cooper, left, said Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in goal for the Lightning Saturday night against Washington at Amalie Arena. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Braydon Coburn returned to the ice, but there’s no update on Tyler Johnson
  3. Twenty years after making his debut as an NHL coach with the Lightning, Steve Ludzik is in dire need of a liver transplant. After a Facebook post by his wife MaryAnn earlier this week, a flood of potential donors have come forward. A handful have been identified as possible matches, but more are still being sought. Call (416) 340-5400 for more information. [Times files]
    Once diagnosed with Parkinson’s during his brief tenure as Lightning coach from 1999-01, Steve Ludzik is now in the fight of his life.
  4. Andrei Vasilevskiy was back to his usual acrobatic maneuvers while stopping 27 of 29 shots Thursday night, including this second period save on Boston Bruins center Joakim Nordstrom (20) with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) helping. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    John Romano | Tampa Bay’s early-season struggles were matched by the goaltender, whose numbers were not as dominant as last season. In recent games, that seems to have changed.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) during the second period of the game on Thursday, December 12, 2019, between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The captain has a four-game goal streak and is one of the league’s hottest players this month.
  6. Bruins play-by-play broadcaster shared some thoughts during Thursday's game against the Lightning. [DIANA NEARHOS  |  TIMES]
    Three questions with Jack Edwards, the Boston Bruins’ legendary play-by-play broadcaster.
  7. The Lightning took on the Bruins at home on Thursday.
  8. Fans gather in Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena before the start of the 2019-2020 NHL season home opener between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers on Thursday, October 3, 2019, in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Bring a new, unwrapped toy to either (or both!) of the next two games
  9. Boston's David Pastrnak, left, and Washington's Alex Ovechkin were the NHL's top two goal-scorers through Tuesday's games. Both are coming to Tampa this week to face the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
    The Lightning face the NHL’s top two teams Thursday and Saturday
  10. The Lightning's Anthony Cirelli (71) and goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, right, watch the puck as the Panthers' Noel Acciari (55) defends during the second period on Tuesday in Sunrise. [LUIS M. ALVAREZ  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay doesn’t make costly mistakes and pays attention to details on defense, just like the team has been talking about.
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