This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
As we approach the holiday season, some teams are in position to begin planning ahead and making decisions about their pending free agents. They need to get a handle on the fit of these players on their rosters, not just for the remainder of this season, but also for the next few years.
Last week, we looked at Steven Stamkos, so let's stay on that track with his implications for the Lightning's roster and salary cap. Based on their current salary structure, the Bolts have no cap space for the rest of this season. When they look ahead to the offseason, they will have 13 players under contract for a total of $47.6 million. That means they're set to have $23.8 million left for their 10 remaining roster spots.
Here's where it gets interesting. Among their pending free agents (including unrestricted and restricted), Tampa has Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Vladimir Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov and Cedric Paquette, all members of the top three forward lines. Throw in the facts that Brayden Coburn (current cap hit $4.5 million) will either have to be re-signed or replaced and that Nikita Nesterov will be a restricted free agent, and the Lightning blue line will eat up more available space.
They also have to consider that defensive lynchpin Victor Hedman, arguably the next-most-important player on this roster, will need a new contract in a year; he'll be looking for his own handsome, long-term deal.
That's eight key pieces that need to be