NHL Rumor Mill – September 29, 2023
How will the Lightning replace sidelined starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Andrei Vasilevskiy’s absence leaves the Tampa Bay Lightning between a rock and a hard place. The 29-year-old goaltender will be sidelined for eight to ten weeks following surgery this week to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.
LeBrun believes Lightning management is considering every option to replace Vasilevskiy given the limited experience (35 games) of backup Jonas Johansson. However, their salary-cap limitations will affect what they can do. They’re already pressed against the $83.5 million salary cap and want to ensure they’re in the best shape cap-wise when Vasilevskiy returns.
Vasilevskiy carries an average annual value of $9.5 million. He’s eligible to go on long-term injury reserve but the Lightning must ensure they have sufficient cap space when he returns to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Lightning are prepared to go with Johansson and Matt Tompkins as their tandem. However, general manager Julien BriseBois reportedly didn’t rule out considering his options for replacing Vasilevskiy. Finding a suitable one that fits within their cap limitations could be challenging.
The most obvious option is via free agency where Jaroslav Halak and former Lightning backup Brian Elliott remain available. The Bolts could also wait until other clubs put their No. 3 goalies on waivers for the purpose of sending them to the minors. LeBrun mentioned Toronto’s Martin Jones, Pittsburgh’s Magnus Hellberg and Florida’s Anthony Stolarz as possibilities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Halak, Elliott and Jones have starter experience though they’re now past their prime in that department. However, they would only have to fill that role with the Bolts until Vasilevskiy’s return. Stolarz put up decent numbers with the Ducks while Hellberg had mixed results in his 23 NHL games.
DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin also mentioned Elliott and Halak as free-agent options. He also pointed out that the Vancouver Canucks placed Spencer Martin on waivers yesterday. Trade options could include Buffalo’s Eric Comrie and Calgary’s Dan Vladar.
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman also mentioned Elliott, Halak, Stolarz, Jones and Martin among his 10 suggested goalie options. The others included Montreal’s Sam Montembeault or Cayden Primeau, Detroit’s Alex Lyon, Anaheim’s Alex Stalock and the New York Rangers’ Louis Domingue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin carries a bargain-basement $762,500 cap hit but he struggled last season backstopping a porous Canucks defense. Comrie could be available if the Sabres stick with Devon Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as their tandem. He also had his difficulties last season behind a shaky Sabres blueline.
I don’t see the Canadiens parting ways with Montembeault as he’s likely to be their starter this season. Given Primeau’s inexperience, I doubt the Lightning will have much interest in him.
Lyon is affordable ($900K) and helped carry the Florida Panthers into the 2023 playoffs. However, consistency is an issue. The same goes for Stalock ($800K) and Domingue ($775K).
The Calgary Flames could attempt to trade Vladar as they want to make room for promising Dustin Wolf. However, he’s in the first season of a two-year contract with an AAV of $2.2 million. He could prove too expensive for the cap-strapped Lightning.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Max Miller suggested San Jose Sharks netminder Kaapo Kahkonen. He pointed out that the 27-year-old Finnish goalie was linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Erik Karlsson trade in August.
Kahkonen carries a $2.75 million cap hit for this season. The Lightning will be able to fit him under the cap with Vasilevskiy going on LTIR.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts need to be cap-compliant when Vasilevskiy is ready to return. Kahkonen’s cap hit could become a significant burden. However, there might be a way for them to pull off a deal for a goalie like Kahkonen or Vladar…
PUCKPEDIA: Suggested the Lightning waive and demote Philippe Myers and Logan Brown to the minors, trade for Vladar and submit an opening-night roster with Brent Seabrook on LTIR and 20 healthy players, which is $22,000 away from optimal LTIR.
They could then put Vasilevskiy on LTIR and call up extra players. When he’s ready to come off LTIR, they could demote Johansson and have a 21-man roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois is known for getting creative to free up cap space for the Lightning. It could take that type of salary cap gymnastics to address this issue. We’ll find out in due course what he’s got in mind.