Updates on the Lightning and Panthers – April 17, 2017
Re-signing Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin could be a challenge for the Tampa Bay Lightning plus updates on the Florida Panthers in your NHL rumor mill.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith wonders how the Tampa Bay Lightning, with their limited salary-cap space, can afford to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin.
Smith believes it’ll be difficult to re-up the trio to long-term deals when they must also add a backup goalie and a top-four defenseman. One way to free up some cap space could be swinging a deal with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, perhaps by moving a contact such as defenseman Jason Garrison’s.
Smith believes Palat is a sure signing and could be the first one re-signed. He also thinks they can work something out with Johnson, though the emergence of young center Brayden Point give the Lightning a solid backup plan at center.
As for Drouin, Smith wouldn’t be surprised if he’s shopped before the NHL draft. He cites rumors claiming the young winger was part of a package offer to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk before he was dealt to the Washington Capitals. He also claims teams such as the Blues and Nashville Predators kicked the tires on Drouin prior to this year’s trade deadline.
Smith believes Drouin could prove too expensive for the Bolts to re-sign, as he could seek a long-term deal worth $6 million per season. The young winger could fetch the Lightning that top-four defenseman they need.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: it’ll be interesting to see how Bolts general manager Steve Yzerman handles this situation. He’s been able to get several core players (Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman) to accept less than market value to stay with the Lightning.
The Bolts hold the leverage with the 22-year-old Drouin, who’s coming off an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Yzerman could push him to accept a two- or three-year bridge deal with the promise of a more lucrative contract down the road.
However, if the Lightning GM tried to use Drouin in a failed attempt to land Shattenkirk back in January, perhaps the skids are already greased for the winger’s departure in June. There could be some lingering bad blood over Drouin’s attempt to force a trade midway through last season.
If Yzerman decides to re-sign Drouin, Johnson could become a trade candidate. The emergence of Point this season could make the 26-year-old center available.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Pending unrestricted free agent winger Thomas Vanek is hoping to re-sign with the Florida Panthers. Acquired by the Panthers at the trade deadline, the 33-year-old winger couldn’t help them reach the playoffs. He has two goals and 10 points in 20 games with the Panthers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers have over $60 million invested in 16 players for next season, though that will drop when they lose a player in the June expansion draft. His future with the Panthers could depend upon how much they invest in re-signing UFA winger Jaromir Jagr and restricted free agents Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk. Vanek is coming off a one-year, $2.6 million deal and could seek a two-year deal worth $3 million annually.