Lightning sign Alex Killorn to 7-year, $31.1 million contract

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have locked in another piece of their core by signing Alex Killorn to a long-term contract extension.

Killorn’s deal is for seven years and $31.1 million (an average of $4.45 million per season), according to Tim Wharnsby of CBC and Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

As Smith mentions, the Lightning avoided arbitration with Killorn a player that general manager Steve Yzerman views as one of the team’s core pieces:

The salary cap hit is pretty fair for a secondary scorer that has been a consistent 15-goal, 40-point scorer over the past three seasons. But a seven-year contract is also an extremely lengthy commitment for a player that is about to turn 27 and has never topped 41 points in a single season.

Most scorers tend to hit their peak production between the ages of 23 and 26, so it is unlikely that Killorn will ever consistently be anything more than what he has been going forward (and that isn’t bad).

Now that Killorn’s contract is signed, the Lightning still have a little more than $8.5 million in salary cap space for the 2016-17 season according to General Fanager. They still have to sign restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov to new contracts this summer.

Killorn’s deal is the third major contract extension that general manager Steve Yzerman has been able to get signed this summer as he joins the massive eight-year deals that went to forward Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman. The team also signed their goalie of the future, Andrei Vasilevskiy, to a three-year extension.

Even with all of those signings they should still have the salary cap space to keep together a roster that has become one of the best in the league, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the past two seasons. They were in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago and lost Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins this past season.

The issue for the Lightning under the salary cap is probably going to come next summer when they will have to worry about Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin, all of whom will be eligible for restricted free agency and will be looking at significant raises over their current salaries.

The Lightning will likely get some cap relief after this season when goalie Ben Bishop‘s $5.9 million salary cap hit comes off the books if he leaves as a free agent. When you consider that the team seems committed to Vasilevskiy as its goalie of the future, it seems likely that he will in fact leave. But even with Bishop’s contract opening up some space the Lightning still have more than $51 million in cap space committed to 12 players for the 2017-18 season. That cap number also includes more than $1 million that will be going to Matt Carle following his recent buyout. The ideal fix would probably be to find a way to trade a veteran forward like Ryan Callahan or Valtteri Filppula, or perhaps even a Jason Garrison or Braydon Coburn off of the blue line.

Either way, somebody else is going to have to go at some point.

As the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have shown in the salary cap era, it is absolutely worth keeping the top-line players and paying them their market value even if it means subtracting some secondary pieces on the roster. Given their commitments to Stamkos and Hedman, the Lightning are clearly following the same path. It just seemed that a player like Killorn, more of a secondary player behind the likes of Stamkos, Kucherov, Johnson and Palat, might be one of the players that ended up being the odd man out.

Yzerman and the Lightning front office obviously disagree and see him as a core piece.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.