Kukla's Korner

Scratch Brewer Off the UFA List: Where Does That Leave Tampa Bay?

If a reported $3.85 million in averaged annual salary is correct, defenseman Eric Brewer’s contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning brings a reduced cap hit to the tune of about $400,000 less than what it was on his previous deal.

And, in a summer with so many contracts needing attention, every penny counts.

First thing’s first. Brewer was a great fit for the Bolts last season and his return is a major positive for the club. His re-signing signals a solid start to the off-season for Steve Yzerman and company.

In short: Task one of many can be crossed off the list.

Ten days ago, we laid out a bottom line scenario piece on what Tampa Bay is facing this off-season, in terms of bringing back their own free agents. With Brewer now inked and with a confirmed high-end salary cap number of $64.3 million next season, when we had previously assumed a $4.5 million annual cap hit for Brewer and banked on an estimated $63.5 million cap ceiling, an updated glimpse at the remaining work to be done is in order.

Adding in the new Brewer contract leaves the Bolts with a shade under $24.4 million left, if they were to spend every dime allowed under the cap. They won’t because smart clubs don’t – at least not at the beginning of the season – instead leaving some wiggle room for potential deadline acquisitions or unforeseen occurrences needing to be addressed mid-season. So, for the sake of our ongoing projections, let’s go with $60 million even as a theoretical cap total for the Lightning come the first week of October. That’s a reasonable figure, with a little over $4 million as a cushion for, well, whatever…

So make it just over $20 million to go to re-up four free agents in the restricted group and seven of the unrestricted variety – or suitable replacements for any of the latter that may depart. On average, that’s roughly $1.8 million, in terms of a cap hit, per player. Factor in what we believe will be a figure around the $7 million dollar mark once Steven Stamkos’ deal is taken care of and that average number for the remaining 10 drops to about $1.3.

On Stamkos, the belief here remains, unwaveringly, that he will return, one way or another. Now that Brewer is taken care of, with a full week until the key date of July 1st’s contract expirations, the undisputed priority for the Lightning organization will get Stamkos re-upped. Should he hit restricted free agency and get an offer sheet, Tampa would match but with such intricate steps to be taken to round out the roster for next year and beyond, you want that done on your terms. To ensure that happens, it has to get done in the next seven days, more than likely. Look for just that to take place. That’s the bet here anyway. And if that does come to pass around the number we expect, the Bolts are in pretty good shape moving forward.

Then, with a theoretical $13 million remaining for 10 players, the official BOSE prediction will dictate exits for forwards Sean Bergenheim, Simon Gagne and Adam Hall and defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Randy Jones, all replaced by younger and/or cheaper options (internally or otherwise), the return of one of Dwayne Roloson or Mike Smith (lean toward Roloson) and the arrival of a bargain 1B option in the crease, the re-upping of RFA forward Teddy Purcell (at, perhaps, more than just the qualifying offer necessary to retain his rights, so the understanding goes) and also the retention of RFA d-men Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby.

Brewer’s out of the way (and, as this posts, the team announces a new two-way deal for forward Blair Jones – a likely candidate for bigger responsibility next season) and that’s a big step.

You have to think the Stamkos deal is next (ideally anyway) and, if that comes in at a relatively reasonable dollar amount, as we expect it will, while the remainder of how the Lightning off-season unfolds will undoubtedly hold our interest, it doesn’t appear as though a major makeover will be in order.

The sheer numbers dictate significant change, as we’ve discussed previously but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

What do you make of these Malone rumors? Doesn’t make sense to get rid of a guy like that based on heart and on-ice contribution, but his compensation is also way out of whack.

Posted by steviesteve on 06/24/11 at 06:54 PM ET

Jon Jordan's avatar

Yeah, that’s the thing. Malone’s contract is askew versus his production, although you’re right about his heart.

If he’s moved, I wouldn’t be surprised but he has a full NMC so that’s not an easy task.

JJ

Posted by Jon Jordan from Tampa, FL on 06/27/11 at 12:15 AM ET

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