The Tampa Bay Lightning gave their fans an early holiday gift on Thursday by announcing a new three-year contract for restricted free agent forward Anthony Cirelli.
The new contract is worth $14.4 million in total, which comes out to a salary cap hit of $4.8 million per season.
In terms of actual dollars, he will make $2.4 million this season, $4.8 million next season, and $7.2 million in year three of the contract.
It continues what has been a busy, and at times chaotic, offseason in Tampa Bay as they have attempted to keep their championship team together and also wrestle with the league’s salary cap. The Lightning are still going to be pressed against the salary cap for the entire season, but Wednesday’s news that superstar forward Nikita Kucherov will not play during the regular season due to hip surgery opened up $9.5 million in salary cap space. They need every dollar of it.
[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
At the time, the Lightning were more than $6 million over the cap and had yet to re-sign Cirelli. After all of those moves the Lightning still find themselves roughly $2 million over the league’s $81.5 million cap for this season. That means another move of some sort is almost certainly on the horizon.
Cirelli has quickly become one of Tampa Bay’s best all-around forwards and has continued a pipeline of talent that has helped the Lightning build the league’s best team.
Offensively, he has already proven to be capable of 20 goals and around 50 points over an 82-game season. When you combine that production with his defensive game he becomes an extremely valuable player. In his first two years in the league he has finished 11th and fourth in Selke Trophy voting. The superstar talent at the top of the roster gets most of the attention, and for good reason. But it has been the development of players like Brayden Point and Cirelli that have really helped turn the Lightning into the league’s top team.