Tampa Bay has been running into cap trouble for years, and this season will be no different. After shedding Jason Garrison’s contract to Las Vegas, the Bolts must turn their attention towards their young stars.
With large contracts such as: Stamkos, Hedman, Kucherov, and Ryan Callahan on the books, the Bolts were looking towards the future with their trade of Drouin.
Tampa has continually become a playoff contender with their depth and talented scoring. The Lightning will make the playoffs this year, if Stamkos can remain healthy, Kucherov and Hedmon continue their development and Vassy becomes the player Yzerman believes him to be. With the Atlantic division becoming more and more competitive, expect a tight race to the post season. Teams like Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Boston and Tampa all have the potential to lead the Atlantic into the post season.
Palat and Johnson will be needing contracts this season as well. With the going rate that skilled 50+ point players are being signed for, expect the duo to net a combined sum of 12 million. Keep in mind Kucherov will be in need of a serious raise as well. His projected contracts list him between 7 and 8 million for the calibre of player he has developed to be.
Budaj and Vassy are a seriously cost effective duo for numerous reasons. In terms of skill, the two rival many goalie pairs in the league. But at a fraction of the cost. Combined the two make less than 4.5 million per season. In relation to other goalie duo’s, their cost is extremely low.
There are very few teams that have spent less on goaltenders, and the majority of these teams do not have multiple SKILLED goalies signed. Buffalo, and Arizona are examples of teams that have few goalies under contract, with even fewer prospects in the pipeline.
Pittsburgh and Anaheim are the only teams in the league with cost effective, and reliable goaltending behind the rookie Murray and John Gibson. Both goalie duos will likely cost around 4.5 million as well. The majority of teams have goaltenders in their late 20’s or 30’s with large contracts that top 5 million.
Tampa must take advantage of these few rare seasons where their goaltending takes up 5-7% of their cap space. The majority of playoff teams are spending upwards of 10% of their cap on goalies with varying levels of success.
19 other goalies make more than 4.5 million in the league, and several of them are not nearly as effective as Vasilevskiy at the age of 22.
Anti Niemi, Lehtonen, Varlamov, Halak and Howard all possess larger contracts and had significantly worse seasons than either Vasilevskiy or Budaj. The majority of these players are being phased out of full time play.
Budaj, a recent UFA signing in Tampa stood on his head in LA and was subsequently rewarded for his play early in the offseason. After the injury to Jonathan Quick and subsequently, Zatkoff, Budaj had 7 seven shutouts over the season in LA, with Vasilevskiy recording 2 in Tampa Bay.
They accumulated 30 and 23 wins respectively, with Budaj winning 3 of 4 games while playing in Tampa.
Vasilevskiy lost 7 games in OT this year, showing that he could have had a few others go his way. He had a .917 save percentage throughout the 47 games he started and played in.
Another positive aspect of Budaj’s signing is the intangible experience he is passing onto Vasilevskiy who will undoubtedly play a leading role for the first time in his career. Tampa Bay truly believed he had the potential to be a #1 starter in the league at the early age of 22, after dealing Bishop. Budaj has been in the league for 11 seasons, and has the regular season experience in multiple markets.
Budaj is a cost effective reliable backup that wow’ed the NHL last season in LA. His experience combined with Vasilevskiy’s low contract provide a unique window for Tampa to reach the cap ceiling by improving their depth. If Vasilevskiy continues his stellar development he could be on pace for a contract that tops 5 million per season.
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