NHL Expansion Draft: Tampa Bay Lightning Protection Strategy | FOX Sports With the trade of Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay have opened up a new protection slot in the NHL Expansion Draft. So who gets added to their protection list? Who do the Lightning want to keep?
Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (65) celebrates his goal against Montreal Canadiens. Gourde is a free agent and thus not going in the NHL Expansion Draft. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
The Lightning’s decisions were mostly made. Steven Stamkos is on an NMC.
They were bound to keep Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Ondrej Palat around.
But then GM Steve Yzerman traded Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens.
He thus opened up a new protection slot for the Lightning to use.
Alex Killorn’s contract is still bad and in NHL Expansion Draft territory. So who do the Lightning use that new spot on?
Can the Lightning simply use the eight skater strategy with six forwards and two defensemen?
And which defensemen are protected? Besides, you know, Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman?
Next: Tampa Bay Forwards
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates with the puck (Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)
TB Is for Truth Believers
Applicable Tampa Bay forwards: Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, J.T. Brown, Erik Condra, Cedric Paquette, Ondrej Palat, Henri Ikonen, Tyler Johnson, Tye McGinn, Tanner Richard, Michael Bournival.
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NMC: Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan
Steven Stamkos, despite his recent history of injuries, remains the best Tampa forward.
He’s a constant point threat, one of the best centers in the league, and a prominent goal scorer.
For example, in just 17 games this year, Stamkos had 20 points, including 9 goals. That continues Stamkos’s trend of being better than a point-per-game while healthy.
That continues Stamkos’s trend of being better than a point-per-game while healthy.
Stamkos has been better than a point-per-game six seasons throughout his career. His career goal-scoring pace is at .55, meaning he’s better than scoring every other game.
His career goal-scoring pace is at .55, meaning he’s better than scoring every other game.
Plus Stamkos is the captain, still just 27, on a team-friendly contract, and has good possession stats. But then again, Stamkos is one of the most offensive forwards ever.
He started 59% of his shifts last season in the offensive zone.
Ryan Callahan has seen a decline in ability since seeing 30, including just 18 games played last year. From 2014-15 (age 29), Callahan saw a dip from a career-high (tied) 54 points to just 28.
Still, that was because his shot percentage was cut in half (exactly, weirdly). Callahan also took fewer shots from 14-15 to 15-16.
Callahan’s No Move Clause prevents him from being exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft. Still, the Callahan contract won’t get too bad for the next three years it’s in place.
Besides, in all likelihood, the Lightning will be able to place him on LTIR in coming years.
Guaranteed: Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat
Kucherov was a dark horse Hart candidate this year. He led all Lightning in points by 13 and scored the most goals by a margin of 20. That’s a 40 goal 85 point pace, better than a point-per-game.
And Kucherov only played 74 games. That’s Stamkos territory. Kucherov is locked down to a contract worth less than 5 million and won’t become a restricted free agent until 2019.
This is the Lightning’s miracle contract. If the 23-year-old Kucherov can keep this pace up as Stamkos gets healthy… Tampa’s coming for you, Pittsburgh.
Vladislav Namestnikov isn’t the MVP-worthy talent that Kucherov is. Still, his contract, at less than 2 million, plus his production, 28 points in 74 games, is worth keeping around.
Namestnikov doesn’t become an RFA until next year, at which time he will likely sign a team-friendly contract.
Ondrej Palat, one-third of the famed Triplets line with Johnson and Kucherov, scored 52 points this season. He’s a restricted free agent, one that could be paid more than his 3.333.333 the last few years.
Still, he’s worth paying. A top 6 forward with the ability to score 23 goals (13-14) and upwards of 50 points. That’s not something you find often, and anywhere from 4-4.75 million is a good deal for Palat.
Highly Likely: Tyler Johnson
Johnson is only this low because the trade rumors out about him make me think he won’t be in Tampa come the NHL expansion draft.
If he is, though, Johnson, much like Palat, is a restricted free agent that is due for a pay day. He’s still just 26, put up 45 points last year, and proved capable of 72 points (14-15).
That 72 point performance should be repeatable. Johnson’s shot percentage was higher this year than it was that year. He was 10 goals, 11 games, and 17 assists off, with different linemates.
Ehhhhhh…: Cedric Paquette
Again, Killorn’s contract is bad enough that he may have to be exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft. So the final spot comes down to Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown.
Paquette, in fewer games, had more goals, points, a better shot percentage, all the face value stats were better. His possession numbers were also better, as both were used defensively.
Paquette is also cheaper, and next year, as Brown becomes a UFA, Paquette becomes an RFA. Which means a few more years of team control and a younger player.
Next: Lightning Defensemen
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) shoots and scores a goal against the Minnesota Wild (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
L is for Lithium
Applicable Lightning defensemen: Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison, Braydon Coburn, Dylan Blujus, Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, Andrej Sustr, Jonathan Racine.
NMC: Victor Hedman
Hedman is the best defenseman on the Lightning roster, one of the best defensemen in the league. He’s up for the Norris this year and is one of the best all-around defensemen in the league.
He’s a 26-year-old defenseman under team control until 2025. Hedman is a defenseman capable of putting up 72 points and playing 24 minutes a night.
Hedman is crucial to the future success of the Lightning.
Guaranteed: Anton Stralman
Stralman is the second most important Lightning defenseman because he’s Hedman’s partner. While Hedman is out there putting up 72 points, Stralman is the stay at home d-man who still generated 22 points.
While he’s now over 30, Stralman’s contract remains friendly, his next one very well could be cheaper. Stralman is too important as a defensive defenseman to expose in the NHL Expansion Draft.
Maybe: Jake Dotchin
Jake Dotchin is likely to be protected for a few reasons. One, he’s the best young defenseman currently on the Lightning roster. At 23, he’s played just 35 games, but that’s more than either Koekkoek or Blujus last year.
Dotchin played really well in those 35 games. 18 minutes a night, offensive zone starts, good Corsi numbers, and 11 points. He’s a restricted free agent, but he will be paid a team-friendly contract.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) makes a save against Montreal Canadiens (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
AV is for Audio/Visual
Applicable Lightning goaltenders: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Kristers Gudlevskis
Guaranteed: Kristers Gudlevskis
You know, Kristers has really proved himself the last few years. In his one game played last year, he had a perfect 1.00 save percentage in 11 minutes…
Guaranteed: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Vasilveskiy is the starter of the present and future in Tampa. He’s staying in place, and once given the role, Vas stepped it up.
Exempt List: Adam Erne, Taylor Raddysh, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Connor Ingram.
Next: Vegas’s Selection
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) during the face off against the Calgary Flames (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Valuable Ground Knight
Vegas takes Alex Killorn. Not enough long contracts in this NHL Expansion Draft. Killorn has the makings of a top 6 player, from intelligence to ability.
Next: St. Louis Blues Protection Strategy
That’s something Vegas is going to need. Plus the fact that Killorn is around until 2023, makes only 4 million and put up 2 seasons of 40 points.
Killorn is the perfect Vegas Golden Knights player.
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With the trade of Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay have opened up a new protection slot in the NHL Expansion Draft. So who gets added to their protection list? Who do the Lightning want to keep?The Lightning’s decisions were mostly made. Steven Stamkos is on an NMC.They were bound to keep N…