Tampa Bay’s cap situation is still pretty promising

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It’s only natural to look at some upcoming salary cap hurdles and wonder if the Tampa Bay Lightning will stumble while trying to justify all the “team of the future” talk.

Steven Stamkos will command a monster deal after next season. Victor Hedman’s $4 million bargain cap hit dries up after 2016-17. Yikes, right?

MORE: Debating Stamkos’ next contract

Actually, if you dig a little deeper, their opponents should panic instead. Just ponder these nuggets:

Note: As mentioned in the comments, the original version of this article had a mix-up regarding the Lightning’s available cap space. They’re actually closer to $1.1 million. This post has been modified with that in mind. Apologies for the error.

Almost unfair bargains

Just consider this: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn carry a combined salary cap hit of about $10 million. Johnson and Palat are locked up at their bargain rates of $3.33 million apiece through 2016-17.

Jonathan Drouin didn’t make an impact at the NHL level, yet players of his ilk often make big jumps … and he’s just one of some impressive players Tampa Bay has in its pipeline.

Oh yeah, the Lightning also have 10 picks in the upcoming draft, even if the excess leans toward later rounds.

It almost feels like cheating, doesn’t it?

source: AP
Via AP

Evaporating deals

The flip side of that previous point is that said players will eventually get raises, but their RFA statuses could greatly reduce those worries, anyway.

Either way, relief could come in other forms. Braydon Coburn’s $4.5 million could very well be diverted into Stamkos’ bank account. Mattias Ohlund’s LTIR-bound deal ends after 2015-16. Heck, the Lightning may decide to save some cash and turn to Andrei Vasilevskiy over Ben Bishop long-term, as Bishop’s $5.95 million cap hit expires after 2016-17.

(And Bishop’s surplus could go to Hedman’s raise. Yup, GM Steve Yzerman is practicing some black magic …)

The unknown

What if the 2016-17 salary cap is a lot friendlier than what we expect from next season? Could a possible expansion help teams like the Lightning farm off less-than-friendly contracts? Yzerman may just have a deft hand in getting players to sign cheaper deals, too.

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The Lightning aren’t necessarily on easy street – those young players and stars like Stamkos won’t be cheap – yet the team’s outlook indicates that they’ll remain a team to beat for some time.