NHL ‘Fast and Furious’ offseason to run for three weeks


Phelan Ebenhack / AP

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, left, and National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman are all smiles after Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Canadiens from Montreal on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Tampa, Florida.

Taking a break from the Stanley Cup celebration and with his voice still hoarse from the party, Alex Killorn greeted the back-to-back Tampa Bay Lightning champion. will not be back together on the ice when the NHL returns in the fall.

“We’re all grown men, and we understand that in a salary cap system the squad will definitely be different now than they will be next season,” Killorn said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Whatever happens, it will happen quickly. Before lightning even enjoying their second Stanley Cup boat parade, the rest of the league is already gearing up for next season as part of a frenzied offseason that could see NBA or NFL level players moving big. names to new places.

“There are a number of teams that – there are just some really big decisions to be made,” said former Lightning general manager Brian Lawton. “Now it’s fast and furious trying to figure out what they can do.”

And not much time to do it. Lawton, now an NHL Network analyst, said it would look like the shortest offseason in league history.

It will soon be a long way from a team president joking to Lawton: “It’s like the Not Happening League: nothing happens.” Redemption window opened Friday, teams must submit protected extension draft lists by next Saturday, Seattle Kraken unveil picks July 21, draft begins July 23, and free agency opens July 28.

The whole hockey landscape will be very different, all over the next three weeks.

As the schedule moves to August, the list of players traded could include Columbus defenseman Seth Jones, St. Louis winger. Vladimir Tarasenko, Buffalo captain Jack Eichel and his teammate Sam Reinhart, Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov, Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Philadelphia winger Jakub Voracek.

“These are huge names,” Lawton said. “It would be pretty much unprecedented if all of this happened.”

And this before even considering the free agents that could hit the market: wingers Taylor Hall, Gabriel Landeskog and Mike Hoffman, Hamilton and his fellow defenders Alec Martinez and Tyson Barrie as well as goalkeepers Philipp Grubauer, Frederik Andersen, Petr Mrazek and Chris. Driedger.

The salary cap remaining unchanged at $ 81.5 million due to the pandemic revenue losses could hurt these players and hamper some movement. Lawton estimated there was a more than 70% chance that Jones would be traded before training camps opened in September, but was less bullish on other big moves from players with heavy contracts.

No extra margin definitely hurts Tampa Bay, a team that needed extraordinary circumstances to stay together this year. Knowing that the group is in the process of breaking up, the players are savoring their final days together before dispersing rather than worrying about next season for now.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the Cup and win and be around this group and everything that is going to follow is going to happen in the next few weeks and I will have time to think about it when I get home” , awaits the defender of the free agents David said Savard. “Right now, I think it’s just about enjoying the moment, enjoying the last few days that I spent with the whole group before everyone started going home.”

At least one Lightning player could make a detour to Seattle for the expansion draft and could become the face of the 32nd NHL franchise. Perhaps it is forward Tyler Johnson, who still has three years on his $ 5 million contract that Tampa Bay can hardly afford and who comes from Spokane, Wash., Where the Kraken will play its first exhibition match.

The Lightning, like every other team except the Vegas Golden Knights – who are exempt from the expansion draft four years after theirs – will lose at least one player to Seattle. But there could be an advantage for teams willing to give up something more for the Kraken to take a big contract.

So even if the cap doesn’t go up, at least $ 60 million in space is coming with Seattle.

“It could open up an opportunity,” Lawton said.

This offseason is a great opportunity for teams to chart a course to try and follow the Lightning as Stanley Cup champions. Playoff disappointments from Edmonton, Toronto and Washington could spark change; Buffalo needs another overhaul and Philadelphia would love to shake up a roster that just wasn’t working.

Tampa Bay would love to go back, but change is inevitable, and Killorn said players have embraced it.

“It’s part of the profession of a professional: you know it can happen,” he said. “Everyone understands the reality.

For the Lightning and 31 other NHL teams, the reality is that everything will go fast. Then the puck falls on an 82-game season in October.

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