The St. Louis Blues and the Tampa Bay Lightning seasons have come to an end. Getting to the Conference Finals is a strong performance by both franchises. However, both clubs must address a salary cup predicament. As a result, major changes are coming as Lightning and Blues face a salary cap crunch.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues salary cap currently sits at $59.2 million committed towards next season. With an expected salary cap ceiling of $74 million for the 2016-17 season, that leaves St. Louis with a little under $15 million of cap space.
St. Louis has five unrestricted free agents and four restricted free agents this off-season. David Backes and Troy Brouwer are UFAs, while Jaden Schwartz is a RFA. Schwartz will see a sizeable increase this summer, which means the Blues can probably only bring back either Backes or Brouwer.
The Blues cap problems do not end there. After next season, St. Louis has five more UFAs and three more RFAs. At that time the Blues big UFAs are Kevin Shattenkirk, Brian Elliott, Alexander Steen and Patrick Berglund. Their big RFAs are Jake Allen, Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbolm.
The contracts St. Louis commit to this off-season will greatly affect the following year’s cap. This will have a major impact on the Blues who are UFAs and RFAs a year from now. Because of this the Blues easily could move Shattenkirk and/or one of their goalies this off-season, as well as another move or two.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 27, 2016
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa on the surface appears to have a lot more flexibility than St. Louis. After all they only have $52.2 million committed towards next year’s salary cap. However in actuality, the Lightning are in a massive salary cap crunch.
Steven Stamkos is a UFA come July 1st. In addition he will be seeking to break Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews $10.5 million annually salary to become the highest paid player in the NHL. The cap issues do not stop there for Tampa. In total the Lightning have four UFAs and six RFAs this summer and two UFAs and five RFAs in 2017.
Starting this off-season, general manager Steve Yzerman has to sign RFAs Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn. Both will receive significant raises. In a year, Yzerman has to sign Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop, both unrestricted free agents after next season. Hedman, who enters the final year at $4 million, could easily receive $9 million annually on the open market.
Yzerman’s salary cap pain does not end with Hedman and Bishop. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Andrej Sustr and Andrei Vasilevskiy are all RFAs as well at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.
The Lightning make a deep run this year without Stamkos and Bishop, who missed almost all of the Conference Finals. Come opening night next season, Tampa very well could be without both players for good as they move on to other teams. At that point Yzerman still may have to make a roster move or two in the near future with all his pending RFAs.
— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) May 27, 2016
One thing is for certain and that is the Blues and Lightning will have major changes regarding the salary cap crunch in the very near future.