TAMPA — Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois’ months of work to get under the salary cap, helped by Nikita Kucherov going on long-term injured reserve because of a hip injury, has finally paid off.
The team said Sunday it traded center Cedric Paquette, defenseman Braydon Coburn and a second-round draft pick in 2022 to the Senators for forward Marian Gaborik and goaltender Anders Nilsson.
Paquette and Coburn combine to make about $3.35 million in salary this season, according to the website Cap Friendly. Gaborik and Nilsson combine for $7.475 million, but the Lightning said both players will be put on long-term injured reserve, meaning their salaries won’t count toward the cap. Gaborik hasn’t played since the 2017-18 season due to injury, and Nilsson will miss this season with concussion symptoms.
The Lightning said last week that Kucherov will miss at least the regular season because of hip surgery scheduled for this week.
Combine the contracts of Gaborik and Nilsson with Kucherov’s $9.5 million cap hit and the Lightning will have $16.975 million of salaries on long-term injured reserve that they can use to get under the cap. With Paquette and Coburn gone, the Lightning are now $1.158 million under the cap, according to capfriendly.com.
Paquette, 27, is a 2012 Lightning draft pick who had spent his entire NHL career with Tampa Bay. His hard-nosed play as a bottom-six forward was valuable. He had seven goals and 11 assists in 61 regular-season games. He also had three assists in 25 postseason games.
Coburn, 35, came to the Lightning in a March 2015 trade with the Flyers. He had one goal and three assists in 40 regular-season games and played in three playoff games last season.
Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents after this season.
Moving Paquette opens up a larger role for forward Mitchell Stephens as a fourth-line center. The 23-year-old Stephens’ ice time grew gradually as last season progressed, and he averaged 12:15 of ice time in the playoffs.
With the Lightning carrying seven other defensemen under contract, they have plenty of depth at the position to move Coburn.
The defending Stanley Cup champions have managed to get a handle on their cap issues while re-signing their top three restricted free agents — defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, and forward Anthony Cirelli — and not having to lose significant core players.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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