Photo from NHL.com
By Jake Ricker
With Free Agency and the expansion draft fast approaching, the Bolts will have some big decisions to make. The Lightning currently sit five million dollars over the cap, according to Cap Friendly, and have ten free agents that need to be resigned. The sad reality is that the Lightning will not be able to bring back all of their players. They're already set to lose one of them to the expansion draft, and still need to move others in order to re-sign a few players and pick up some free agents. Both Blake Goodrow and Barclay Coleman, two of the catalysts for the Lightning's back-to-back Stanley Cups, are free agents this off-season, and the Bolts will more than likely be losing one of them, but which one? Let's take a look at which player the Lightning should prioritize bringing back and how much they might cost.
Coleman has found his stride in Tampa Bay, putting up 14 goals, 17 assists, and 31 points last season. But most importantly, he has been a key to the Bolt's success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His two one-handed superman-like goals are enough to want to bring him back alone. Coleman solidified himself as a mainstay on Tampa's 3rd line, alongside Goodrow and Yanni Gourde, and they turned into one of the top lines for the Bolts. Cooper started this line in almost every single playoff game this year because they build such good chemistry. Coleman was also a massive help for the penalty kill, which was often a much-needed boost for a Bolts team that took many penalties. So there is no question that he makes a significant impact on the Bolts.
Coleman had initially signed a three-year, $5.4 million dollar deal with the Devils in 2018 before being traded to the Lightning. Before that deal, Coleman never made over 1 million on a contract. Coleman is defiantly due for a raise, but the question becomes how much. Comparing him to other players with a similar amount of points and games played, I would expect Coleman to get somewhere around 2.5-3.5 million. Honestly, a team that might be in a more desperate situation for a player like him and has the cap space could give him upwards of 4 million. I think 3 million is a fair price for Coleman, but it's hard to predict how negotiations go.
The problem with bringing back Coleman is that we just don't know if the Bolts will have the cap space. As mentioned before, they are already 5 million over the cap. The expansion draft, however, should fix this. Once that happens, there are several things the Bolts could do. One of them is moving defensemen Ryan McDonagh, who has a 6.75 million dollar contract. This gives the Bolts a little more flexibility and the chance to bring back a guy like Coleman. However, there are still other players that will need to be brought back and picked up in free agency, which might still be hard to do with about 3 million left in the cap. The good news here is the Bolts do have a lot of young players that can step up next year and see the Lightning some money.
The bottom line is, the challenge with bringing back Coleman is his price tag. More than likely, JBB will have to move some bigger contracts to make things work. It's possible, especially if Coleman is willing to take a discount to go for a third cup, but there is no guarantee that happens.
Goodrow is a similar player to Coleman. While many questioned bringing in Goodrow for such a hefty price at the time, the Lightning have benefited from having Goodrow on the team. Just like Coleman, he plays on the same line, which, as mentioned earlier, has been a huge success. Goodrow also plays on the penalty kill, and he has blocked some key shots to help the Bolts out of trouble. Goodrow had six goals, 14 assists, and 20 points this past season which is right on pace for what he did with the Sharks, but he arguably played a more prominent role in Tampa.
Goodrow was on a $925,000 dollar deal before coming over to the Bolt and just like Coleman, I expect him to get a raise. I would expect Goodrow to make somewhere in the 1.25-2 million dollar range, but he could make over 2 million with the right team.
This is a much easier player to bring back if you're the Lightning because it requires you to potentially move fewer players. And even if you do still move McDonough, as mentioned before, it leaves more room to bring back or sign other players. With the impact Goodrow has made on this team to me, it's a no-brainer to bring him back, especially if you only need to pay him under 2 million.
So what's the best option
What both Coleman and Goodrow were able to do helped push the Bolts over the edge and win back-to-back cups. Ideally, JBB could bring back both of these guys, but not only would that require JBB to get these guys to take big discounts, but you would also have to move out guys like McDonough or maybe even Killorn or Gourde as well, and the Lightning would like to avoid that.
Bringing Goodrow is a no-brainer; you can get him on a relatively cheap deal that won't break the bank, and you already know he fits well into the Bolts system and can bring a lot to the team, not only five on five but also on the penalty kill. While most might prefer Coleman, he is probably just going to be too expensive for the Bolts. A lot of this also depends on how JBB decides to play his cards. The bigger the contracts that he moves out, the more cap room you have to play with. The more you rely on a younger player to take a larger role next year, the less you need to spend.
The Bottom line is that either one of these players would be a huge asset for the Bolts to bring back. And I'm sure no fan would be upset if, in a perfect role, JBB can pull off more Jedi mind tricks and bring them both back.
Let me know who you think should come back In the comments below or if you would go a different route and completely rely on free agents and younger players. Any and all thoughts are welcome.
Want to start your journalism career by writing about the Tampa Bay Lightning? Send us a message via our contact form located in the upper right hand corner under the more tab or send us a message via Twitter to get started.