The Tampa Bay Lightning have more talented players than anyone else in the NHL.
That much was evident during their impressive run, when they boasted top-six quality players such as Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Tyler Johnson in their bottom-six. When injuries hit, they could plug a quality third-line forward into the lineup like Mathieu Joseph without missing a beat.
Their incredible depth meant that not many other teams — perhaps aside from the plucky New York Islanders — realistically had a chance as preventing them from winning their second Stanley Cup in a row.
Because of their depth, Tampa Bay projects to have a barrage of good players that will go unprotected. That’s especially true because many current projections — including this one in June by Joe Smith of The Athletic — predict that the Lightning will protect eight skaters instead of going the 7-3-1 format.
Here’s their projected protection list, courtesy of Joe Smith.
- Steven Stamkos
- Nikita Kucherov
- Brayden Point
- Anthony Cirelli
- Victor Hedman
- Ryan McDonagh
- Mikhail Sergachev
- Erik Cernak
- Andrei Vasilevskiy
The logic here is to keep Tampa’s formidable D-core together for the foreseeable future. When thinking of all the talent Tampa might lose in the expansion draft, Smith from The Athletic also points out a quote he heard from former Pens and Devils GM Ray Shero.
“You’re only losing one fucking player.”
While that’s true in terms of the expansion draft, Tampa is bound to lose more than one player due to their cap crunch. Currently, they have $85 million committed to 17 players next season, meaning they’ll need to shed a few hefty salaries and replace them with younger, cheaper skaters.
The Canucks are in a bit of a cap crunch themselves, making a number of these deals difficult. However, let’s go through the intriguing list of unprotected players regardless to gauge the assumed trade value, and whether there’s a fit for the Canucks.
2020-21 Stats: 55 GP, 15-31-46
2021 Playoff Stats: 23 GP, 5-8-13
Contract Status: One year remaining at a $5.3 million cap hit (UFA in 2022)
30-year-old Ondrej Palat was only two points off of the team lead in scoring during the regular season. He’s among a group of four Lightning forwards (all listed below) who are really good, but are making more than $4 million next season.
Realistically, the Lightning probably need to shed two of those four salaries, but they might be least motivated to trade Palat’s since he only has one year remaining on his deal.
Trade Value: Although he’s 30, Palat is still a first-line calibre forward. You have to think Tampa targets a first-round pick, otherwise, they’d probably want to hold onto Palat and deal one of the other forwards with more term remaining on their contracts. Like all of these forwards, Palat does have some trade protection. He has to submit a 20-team trade list if asked to do so.
2020-21 Stats: 56 GP, 15-18-33
2021 Playoff Stats: 19 GP, 8-9-17
Contract Status: Two years remaining at $4.45 million (UFA in 2023)
The Halifax native was once again dynamite for Tampa Bay during the playoffs, finishing fourth among Lightning forwards in playoff scoring with 17 points in 19 games. We then learned that he broke his fibula, had a rod inserted into his leg, and still planned to return to the Stanley Cup Final if the series went long enough. Unbelievable.
Trade Value: Because of how valuable some of these players are, you have to think general manager Julian Brisebois wants to snag a first-round pick. Hell, if he could do it for Miller, you’d have to think he’d try for Killorn. However, due to their cap crunch, coupled with the fact that Killorn is 31 years old, perhaps a second-round pick might make a deal happen. Tampa is lacking second-round picks in both the 2021 and 2022 NHL Entry Drafts. Killorn does have a NTC where he can submit a 16-team no-trade list.
2020-21 Stats: 56 GP, 17-19-36
2021 Playoff Stats: 23 GP, 6-1-7
Contract Status: Signed for four more years at a $5.16 million cap hit (UFA in 2025)
The Lightning would be loath to lose Yanni Gourde, a feisty top-six centre who excelled in a third-line matchup role throughout the regular season and playoffs. However, he might have to be a salary-cap casualty for this team due to his high cap hit. Although he’s valuable, he could be replaced by players like Anthony Cirelli and Ross Colton at the third-line centre position.
Trade Value: Gourde holds enough value to warrant a first-round pick in return, although that’s something a lot of general managers would give pause to considering that Gourde is 29 years old.
2020-21 Stats: 55 GP, 8-14-22
2021 Playoff Stats: 23 GP, 4-3-7
Contract Status: Signed for three more years at a $5 million cap hit (UFA in 2024)
The Spokane, Washington native won’t be the best player available to Seattle, but with his Washington ties, the Lightning are probably hoping and praying that he’s selected in the expansion draft. If not, it will likely be another awkward offseason for the Lightning and Johnson.
Although his contract makes him hard to move, Johnson still provides value as a low-end top-six/high-end bottom-six forward. His 1.59 points-per-60 at even-strength, a high-end third-line rate, is evidence of that.
Trade Value: Despite his effectiveness, Johnson’s trade value is clearly low since he went through waivers twice last season. However, perhaps there’s a scenario for the Canucks (or another NHL team) where Johnson is included in part of a deal that includes another Lightning forward mentioned above.
Could Johnson and Gourde be dealt for, say, Nate Schmidt and a second-round pick? Schmidt has more value than Johnson, but Gourde is likely worth more than a second-round pick. Although Schmidt’s style of play would mesh well with Tampa, the Lightning probably want to shed more salary in a deal like this.
Perhaps the Canucks could trade a second and a third for Gourde and Johnson, although that pushes them uncomfortably close to the cap ceiling. Trading Schmidt in a separate deal might alleviate that issue.
Even if a deal like this did push the Canucks close to the cap ceiling, some heavy lifting for their offseason would be completed if Gourde and Johnson come in as the third and fourth line centres.
2020-21 Stats: 56 GP, 12-7-19
2021 Playoff Stats: 6 GP, 0-2-2
Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a $737,500 cap hit (RFA in 2022)
After playing all 56 regular-season games for Tampa, Joseph largely sat in the press box as a healthy scratch thanks to the return of Nikita Kucherov. His high-shooting percentage during the regular season pushed him up to a top-six scoring rate at even-strength, but in all likelihood, the 24-year-old winger is probably more like a high-end third-line player.
Trade Value: A second-round pick is probably the starting ask for Tampa. However, thanks to his low-cap hit, Joseph is exactly the type of player that the Lightning would want to keep. It’s likely that they try to trade other players with larger salaries first before they even think about dealing Joseph.
2020-21 Stats: 30 GP, 9-3-12
2021 Playoff Stats: 23 GP, 4-2-6
Contract Status: RFA ($750,000 to qualify)
The former 4th round pick in 2016 broke out this season with Tampa Bay, and solidified himself as an everyday contributor on the best team in the league. Although he spent time at centre during the regular season, he was mostly used as a winger in the playoffs.
Trade Value: Colton is in the same boat as Joseph (a player the Lightning don’t want to lose), but this is more complicated since Colton is an RFA. Any team can sign him to an offer sheet of $1.35 million without giving up compensation. You’d have to think Tampa matches that. The Canucks don’t have a third-round pick to give up as compensation for an offer of $1.35 million to $2.05 million, but if they were to sign Colton (or another RFA) to a deal between $2.06 million and $4.1 million, then they could give up a second-round pick as compensation. For a player with 55 games of NHL experience, that would be a bold bet, and one that Tampa would have to think about before matching.
2020-21 Stats: 15 GP, 3-0-3
Contract Status: RFA ($750,000 to qualify)
The undrafted 24-year-old has been tearing up the AHL ever since Tampa signed him as a free agent in March, 2018. He has 136 points in 144 AHL games, including eight goals and 12 points in 10 games this season.
He got a decent opportunity with Tampa during his first 15 NHL games, playing mainly with Brayden Point and Palat. Although you’d like to see him score more than one even-strength goal in 15 games with that kind of opportunity, Barre-Boulet has enough raw talent to warrant an increased role in the NHL.
Trade Value: Barre-Boulet is yet another talented young player who the Lightning probably prefer to keep. However, since he’s an RFA that didn’t have an impact on their postseason run, perhaps signing him to an RFA offer sheet of $1.35 million would prevent Tampa from matching.
2020-21 AHL Stats: 29 GP, 11-23-34
Contract Status: RFA ($874,125 to qualify)
Just to highlight Tampa’s embarrassment of riches once again, we’re about to list a couple of AHL players who are probably good enough that that would find themselves on the Canucks protection list...
Boris Katchouk, a 44th overall selection in 2016, had a breakout AHL season with 34 points in 29 games. Although increased AHL production has to be taken with a grain of salt in 2020-21, Katchouk is probably another player that the Lightning could give a shot next season once they shed some of their bigger contracts.
Trade Value: He’s a target to sign to an offer sheet below $1.35 million.
2020-21 AHL Stats: 27 GP, 12-17-29
Contract Status: RFA ($874,125 to qualify)
Another 2nd round pick in 2016 (56th overall), Raddysh also posted career-best numbers in the AHL as an assistant captain for the Syracuse Crunch. The former World Junior standout for Canada plays right-wing (as opposed to Katchouk, who was a left-winger).
Trade Value: Another target to sign to an offer sheet below $1.35 million.
2020-21 Stats: 35 GP, 0-8-8
2021 Playoff Stats: 23 GP, 2-1-3
Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a cap hit of $1.3 million (UFA in 2022)
The 30-year-old right-shot defenceman was Victor Hedman’s main partner during the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite that, he still logged third-pairing minutes, averaging 14:09 per game. He does provide surplus value above his $1.3 million cap hit thanks to his reliability on the back-end.
Trade Value: This is another low-cost player that Tampa probably wants to keep, although they could save about $500,000 on the cap if they replace him with a lower-cost option. One of the best comparables trade-wise was the deal Colorado made for Patrik Nemeth at the trade deadline with Detroit for a fourth-round pick.
2020-21 Stats: 35 GP, 1-2-3
Contract Status: RFA ($874,125 to qualify)
The 14th overall pick in 2017 probably isn’t the type of player that the Lightning want to give up. However, he could be a prime expansion draft target based on his potential and low expected cap hit. Foote, a 22-year-old right-shot defenceman, got his first taste of NHL action in 2020-21, suiting up for 35 games in a third-pairing role.
Trade Value: You’d have to think his value is probably worth a second-round pick, whether that’s via trade or if he were to sign an offer sheet in the $2.06 million to $4.1 million range. He’s not worth that salary right now, but it could be a worthwhile gamble if a team believes in his potential.
These guys might have priced themselves out of affordability for the Canucks, but they’re certainly worth kicking tires on.
Blake Coleman: Among Tampa’s skaters, Coleman was one of the Lightning’s best during the Stanley Cup Final. In a similar mold to JT Miller, he’s a true top-six winger who provides grit and physicality. He’s someone that any team would love — including the Canucks — but he’s going to be too pricey of an addition unless Vancouver can shed some cap space. Spoiler alert...that goes for the other two UFA’s below as well.
Barclay Goodrow: The last member of Tampa’s marvelous third-line to be mentioned on this list, the 28-year-old is a fantastic middle-six forward and penalty-killing ace. He’ll get paid this offseason.
David Savard: The 30-year-old right-shot defenceman is an unrestricted free agent. He’s still a top-four calibre defenceman with declining offensive production, but he would look mighty good next to Quinn Hughes. He’s also likely to command a multi-year deal similar to his previous contract, which saw him make $4.25 million per season.
It’s clear that Tampa has both an embarrassment of riches and motivation to clear cap space. With Jim Benning saying he wants to be aggressive this offseason, could those plans include a deal or an acquisition with the best team in hockey?
Among Tampa’s projected unprotected players, who would you target?
This poll is closed
Target a UFA (Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, David Savard)
Check out the rest of our series on teams the Canucks could target via trade prior to the expansion draft.