(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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.