“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning we picked… forward Valtteri Filppula.
The Lightning made the difficult decision to use a compliance buyout on Vincent Lecavalier’s contract and free up roughly $7.7 million annually in cap space. Not too long after that, they inked Filppula to a five-year, $25 million deal.
Is it fair to compare those two? Of course not. Filppula isn’t a substitute for Lecavalier and the Lightning certainly didn’t want out of Lecavalier’s contract for the express purpose of grabbing Filppula. Lecavalier is 33 years old and was signed through 2019-20, so that cap hit was only going to look worse as time went on.
Unfortunately, those comparisons might end up being made anyways.
“Because they play the same position, they shoot the same hand, of course they are going to be compared,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper conceded to the Tampa Tribune.
It doesn’t help that, taken on its own merits, Filppula’s contract is still a big risk for Tampa Bay. He had 66 points in 2011-12, but was coming off a knee injury when the lockout ended and he struggled throughout the 2013 campaign.
That drop off in 2013, especially with the injury factored in, might have been easy to dismiss if not for the fact that he’s 29 years old and has only had one career season with more than 40 points. So to give him $5 million annually for the next five years seems like a stretch.
The man inking him to that deal was Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Given Yzerman’s long tenure with the Detroit Red Wings, he would know Filppula better than most and he clearly believes in him. At the same time, that adds to what’s at stake for Filppula.
It won’t just be the unfair comparisons to Lecavalier that threatens to hang over him or the normal pressure that comes from being a big summer signing. If Tampa Bay has a bad season and Filppula doesn’t live up to expectations, then his signing will be used as a primary example in any potential argument against Yzerman.
In other words Filppula is also playing to prove Yzerman right for trusting him.
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.