Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has quite a bit of work this offseason when it comes to keep the core of his team in place.
Following the long-term extensions signed by Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in recent years, the Lightning are sure to be pressed against the salary cap and have three significant restricted free agents that are going to need new contracts this summer: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin.
According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Yzerman has had talks with the representation for all three players and has maintained his confidence that all three can be re-signed.
The Lightning already have $55 million committed to 14 players for the 2017-18 season, and the aforementioned trio are going to significantly add to that.
Johnson and Palat are both coming off of matching three-year contracts that paid them each an annual salary cap hit of $3.3 million per season. That number should rise for each one, while Drouin, coming off his entry level contract and a breakout season that saw him score 21 goals and record more than 50 points should also be in the market for a significant raise.
If Yzerman can manage to keep all three in the mix without having to trade one the Lightning should be in a great position to return to the playoffs next season. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back years (including the Stanley Cup Final in one of those years) the Lightning took a step back this past season and fell short of the playoffs entirely, largely due to injuries. Steven Stamkos missed most of the season, while Nikita Kucherov, Palat, Johnson, Cedric Paquette and a handful of other players all missed significant playing time due to injury. At times all at once. Even with the injuries, and even after selling off several veteran assets at the trade deadline, the Lightning remained in the playoff race to the end of the regular season and fell short of a spot by just a single point.
With a healthy Stamkos next season and some better injury luck they should once again be a contender in the Eastern Conference.