TAMPA — Blake Coleman, David Savard and Luke Schenn left. Corey Perry, Brian Elliott and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare arrived. Zach Bogosian returned. And Brayden Point will be sticking around a lot longer.
With all of the comings and goings, the Lightning were as busy as any team in the NHL at the start of free agency.
What did it all mean? And where does it leave the team now?
Here are five things we learned:
The Lightning are in better cap shape
By trading players or allowing them to leave via free agency, the Lightning got closer to the projected $81.5 million cap for the 2021-22 season. According to PuckPedia, they were $5.74 million over the cap with 21 players on the projected roster following Friday’s moves. With Brent Seabrook expected to go on long-term injured reserve, they can potentially exceed the cap by up to $6.875 million, giving them $1.13 million in space.
At this point, general manager Julien BriseBois said Wednesday, the team is in a “dollar-in, dollar-out” kind of situation. If something falls into the Lightning’s lap that the team believes can improve it and they can make the money work, as seemingly happened with Perry, they will be open to those opportunities.
“We’re very limited in the cap space that’s available,” BriseBois said. “Luckily for us, I think we got really good value on the guys we signed.”
Retaining younger players is a priority
With the loss of six players from the Stanley Cup team and necessity of developing players stepping into bigger roles, it becomes paramount for the Lightning to re-sign its younger players, as they did the past two days with defenseman Cal Foote and forward Alex Barre-Boulet.
Restricted free agent Ross Colton, as well as unrestricted free agents Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh, also were issued qualifying offers Monday.
Restricted free agents Ross Colton and Alex Barre-Boulet, as well as unrestricted free agents Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh, also were issued qualifying offers Monday.
“We’re focused on the UFAs now,” BriseBois said. “We can turn our attention to the RFAs and getting contracts done with all of those good, young players.”
What Bogosian signing means for Foote
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Foote, the Lightning’s first-round pick in the 2017 draft who went 14th overall, got his first taste of NHL play this past season, playing in 35 games during the regular season. He was inactive throughout the postseason following the acquisition of Savard just before the trade deadline.
Foote, who averaged 12:53 last season, figures to compete for ice time with Bogosian and Jan Rutta behind the top four of Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak.
“I would expect the seven guys that we have, including Cal ... who I am looking forward to getting signed here shortly, are all going to play regularly,” BriseBois said.
Bellemare will help in numerous ways
Bellemare, 36, played eight seasons in Sweden before arriving in the NHL in 2014-15 at age 29. The fast, skilled, “sneaky-good” two-way forward can play up and down the lineup and is expected to restore some of the grit the Lightning lost with the departure of its entire third line.
“He can assume some of those minutes that the Barclay Goodrows and the Yanni Gourdes and the Blake Colemans were playing,” Brise Bois said, “whether it’s staying in games protecting leads or on the penalty kill or taking a big faceoff, especially in the defensive zone.”
Tampa Bay is now a free-agent ‘destination’
The Lightning didn’t have as much room to maneuver under the cap as some of the teams they were competing with for players. But as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, agents still took their calls and made pitches of their own.
In some cases, Tampa Bay was able to bring in players on value deals, such as Bogosian.
“Getting a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup when you’re an unrestricted free agent and you get to decide where you want to go, especially if you’ve already made significant amounts of money already in your career,” Brise Bois said, “I would think the opportunity to chase a championship is very appealing to you, first and foremost.
“Over time, I think we’ve created an organization and an environment that is appealing to players.”
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