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Lightning trades Ryan Callahan to free up cap space

Tampa Bay receives goalie Mike Condon from Ottawa and swaps late-round draft picks.
The Lightning traded Ryan Callahan, shown before a March 30 game, to Ottawa after the winger was told he cannot play hockey due to a degenerative disc disease. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
The Lightning traded Ryan Callahan, shown before a March 30 game, to Ottawa after the winger was told he cannot play hockey due to a degenerative disc disease. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published Jul. 30, 2019|Updated Jul. 30, 2019

Julien BriseBois found a way for the Lightning to avoid using long-term injured reserve. The Lightning traded Ryan Callahan to Ottawa for goaltender Mike Condon.

“(This) trade was all about cap flexibility,” BriseBois summed it up. “It allows us to get under the cap.”

This move is about salary cap issues for both teams, with opposite reasons. The Senators need to be above the minimum. The Lightning needs space.

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“I want to thank Ryan Callahan, who worked with us to make this trade happen,” BriseBois said, “and also for the great years of having him on our team.”

Putting Callahan, who can no longer play hockey due to a back disease, on long-term injured reserve would have allowed the Lighting to exceed the salary cap but still had consequences.

The teams also swapped draft picks. Tampa Bay gives up a fifth-round pick in 2020 and gets a sixth-round pick. BriseBois was happy to work out a deal that didn’t require giving up a prospect or a high-round pick to convince a team to take on Callahan’s cap hit.

He said given the insurance on Callahan’s contract, the cash cost of Condon’s $2.4 million is greater than on Callahan’s $5.8 million deal.

Why didn’t the Lightning want to use LTIR?

When BriseBois shared that Callahan would not be able to play anymore, he said he was still looking to move his contract, that using long-term injured reserve wasn’t the ideal solution. It carries use-it-or-lose-it relief.

If the Lightning can come up under the cap without it, the team can bank any space it has for later use. Beyond that, using long-term injured reserve would have meant deferring performance bonuses to the next year’s salary cap. BriseBois expects next year to be even tighter.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy’s extension worth $9.5 million a year kicks in next season. Erik Černák, Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph and Mikhail Sergechev will all come off their entry-level contracts as well.

After the trade, the Lightning, which needs to sign Brayden Point and Adam Erne, has $8.7 million in cap space. BriseBois plans to assign Condon to the AHL and is looking for a trade for Louis Domingue, which would bring the cap space up to $11 million, according to

BriseBois has ongoing talks with a couple of organizations for Domingue, but the goalie market is always an interesting one. That each team only carries two makes it different than other positions.

What about all the other goalies?

BriseBois joked that the Lightning has cornered the market on goalies with seven in the organization now.

Vasilevskiy is the obvious starter, and BriseBois reiterated that Curtis McElhinney, signed in free agency, will be the backup. He plans on having Condon and Scott Wedgewood in the AHL.

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The Lightning still plans on Wedgewood being the third goalie, the first option for a recall in case of an injury. But now Condon would provide a good option as well. Both contracts expire after this season.

Condon’s reputation as a hard worker and good teammate makes BriseBois believe he’ll be a good presence in Syracuse. He had a strong AHL career before his last four years in the NHL. Last year, however, he had a rough start and was sent to the AHL, where he had a hip injury. Condon only played three games total.

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BriseBois suggested this could be an opportunity to rehabilitate his career, as time with the Crunch was for Domingue.

That leaves questions around Spencer Martin and Zach Fucale, the later of whom is on an AHL contract. One could go to the ECHL. BriseBois did not commit to who would be in Orlando, saying the team would find a good spot for all of the goalies, whether in this organization or another.

He spoke with the agents of all of the goalies Tuesday morning to make sure they were on the same page.

“The reality is this is something we will have to manage,” BriseBois said. “This is about cap flexibility. But I’d rather be managing too many goaltenders than not enough.”

Contact Lightning beat writer Diana C. Nearhos at and follow @dianacnearhos.


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