Who Should the Tampa Bay Lightning Re-Sign?


Apr 14, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center

Alex Killorn

(17) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Lightning 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL draft fast approaching, and free agency beginning right after, things are about to get busy for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But before all that, Steve Yzerman must decide which pending free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, he must re-sign.

He’s already locked up forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, signing them both to identical three-year, $10 million contracts.

The Lightning’s remaining restricted free agents are as follows: Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Mark Barberio, Richard Panik, Andrej Sustr, Keith Aulie and Anders Lindback.

The unrestricted free agents are Sami Salo, Ryan Callahan, Tom Pyatt, Brian Lee and Mike Kostka.

So who should the Bolts bring back?

Looking at the restricted pool first, it’s a safe bet to say that Killorn, Brown, Barberio and Sustr will all be signed to new deals. All four players were integral parts of the Lightning’s successful 2013-14 season.

The 24-year-old Killorn had 41 points (17 goals) while skating in all 82 games. Brown collected 19 points in 63 games and showed grit and determination playing on the third and fourth lines. He embraced his role and excelled at it.

Sustr skated in 43 NHL games and also spent time in Syracuse. He made steps this season, and he still has a lot to improve on, but he’s a player the Bolts will lock up. Barberio collected 10 points in 49 games for the Bolts, and while he was a healthy scratch a number of times, he showed plenty of promise that will make a fixture for the Lighting moving forward. Furthermore, he’s a dynamic offensive defenseman too.

Jan 14, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio (8) in action against the New York Rangers during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With the emergence of Kristers Gudlevskis, and with the success of Andrei Vasilevski in the KHL the last two seasons, the need to re-sign Lindback isn’t necessary. Lindback has been a disappointment for the Bolts, and despite flashes, he hasn’t panned out as hoped. Ben Bishop is the obvious number one, but either Gudlevskis or Vasilevski could back him up next year for the Bolts.

Yzerman will also look to bring back both Panik and Aulie, although it’s not so much of a guarantee. Both players have the same problem though: they can’t quite stick in the NHL but are probably a touch too good for the AHL. It makes for inconsistent playing time as they never play regularly at the NHL level, often sitting out as healthy scratches.

On the unrestricted end, the Lightning are still very interested in re-signing Callahan, as contracts talks are still on-going. However, it appears as though he’ll be testing free agency come July 1.

Re-signing Callahan will likely be one of Yzerman’s main priorities this offseason. He is the big body forward the Lightning desire and was very productive in his short time in Tampa, as he racked up 11 points in 20 games. His leadership skills cannot go unnoticed too.

As for the rest of the unrestricted free agents, the Bolts can probably let them walk. Salo is 39 now and while he can still contribute, he doesn’t exactly fit into the youth movement Tampa has going on.

Brian Lee is still injured so the Bolts won’t be spending money on him, while Tom Pyatt, who plays well when he gets into the line-up, might be looking for a new team where he can play every night. Injuries slowed him down this season, but he played in just 27 games, recording seven points.

Kostka could be inked to a new deal. After being picked up on waivers, he collected eight points in 19 games and played well. His lack of speed was exploited regularly, but Kostka could be re-signed to be the team’s seventh defenseman.

The Lightning currently have 17 players under contract for next season and according to capgeek.com, they have over $16 million in salary cap space.