For the first time since 2019, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. After being bounced by the rival Maple Leafs in the first round, the Lightning must grapple with an aging roster, limited cap space, and another potential free agency exodus if they are to return to contention. On Wednesday’s edition of Daily Faceoff Live, hosts Frank Seravalli and Colby Cohen discussed the Lightning’s critical 2023 offseason.
Frank Seravalli: The Tampa Bay Lightning and GM Julien BriseBois have some difficult decisions to make this summer. Alex Killorn is a pending UFA a year after Ondrej Palat ended up walking. Corey Perry will not be back in Tampa Bay but I’m told he will continue his career elsewhere. Ian Cole is a significant piece on their backend; he is also a UFA. They’ve got tough decisions to make. They have little cap space and many players out of contract.
They will have to shop from the bargain bin of free agency and the trade market for sure this summer, and they probably will not be able to keep Ross Colton. He has ascended through their organization as a late-round pick and is due a significant raise.
What are the Tampa Bay Lightning doing? What’s their first order of business?
Colby Cohen: The first order of business has to be Jeannot. We all know what Julien BriseBois gave up to get Jeannot, so I think it’s important that they follow through on that and make some sort of deal work.
On the other hand, Ross Colton is going to be the next Carter Verhaeghe for the Tampa Bay Lightning. If he does walk, he’s going to go somewhere and score a lot of goals. He’s good on the power play, he’s good along the wall, and he’s come through probably the best organization he could have over the past ten years.
Frank Seravalli: Would you pay to keep Colton?
Colby Cohen: I would pay to keep Colton. The reason being: look at the success Carter Verhaeghe is having. Although he hasn’t scored in the Stanley Cup Final, he’s scored some big goals throughout this postseason. He’s a sniper and they let him go for nothing, and he’s blossomed into a star for Florida.
I really like Ross Colton’s game, he’s a talented player. If he does go somewhere, he’s going to get paid. I think he’s a top-six forward on a lot of teams in the NHL.
Frank Seravalli: Because of the cap situation in Tampa and the need to pay Ross Colton he was on our latest trade targets board.
You can watch the entire episode here…