Lightning Must Re-Sign One of Killorn or Colton

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nicholas Paul (20) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with forward Michael Eyssimont (23) and forward Ross Colton (79) during the third period of Game 5 Thursday night in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

With the 2022-23 NHL season in the books, it’s time for all teams to look at building next year’s roster.

The Tampa Bay Lightning enter the 2023 offseason with salary cap issues, as they have approximately $7.3 million to spend. That takes into account their usage of the long-term injured reserve but likely doesn’t include the two-way contracts recently given to top prospects Cole Koepke and Gabriel Fortier.

Notable free agents are Ross Colton, Tanner Jeannot, Corey Perry, Alex Killorn, Ian Cole, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Brian Elliott. Colton and Jeannot are restricted free agents, meaning the Lightning control their rights, while the others are unrestricted and free to sign elsewhere starting at noon on July 1.

Considering the Lightning gave up five draft picks and young defenseman Cal Foote to acquire Jeannot from the Nashville Predators at the 2023 Trade Deadline, it’s highly unlikely that general manager Julien Brisebois will let him walk. His previous contract was worth $1.6 million over two years. Keeping that in mind and the fact that he struggled last season, it’s highly likely he gets another two year contract worth somewhere between 1.8 and 2 million dollars. That’s between $900,000 and one million per year.

Brisebois should have enough to sign Colton to a three-year bridge deal worth around 3.75 million dollars if that is the case. That would have him making $1.25 million per year. The only drawback to that is his salary increases minimally, from $1.125 million the past two seasons to $1.25 million for the next three years. He could accept another two year deal worth $4 million. Either way, the Lightning have hard decisions to make, as both Colton and Jeannot would take up a little less than half of the team’s available cap space if they take any of the deals proposed above.

The Lightning would have $4.3 million to spend on a backup goaltender and bottom-pair defenseman to replace Cole. That’s doable, but the team needs to think of the future as well, so they need to get someone looking for a fresh start and willing to take a one year deal worth the league minimum to prove themselves.

Related Article: OEL Bought Out By Vancouver Canucks

On defense, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Noah Hanifin are two players to watch. Both are coming off down years and looking for new homes. Ekman-Larsson is more likely to take less money in exchange for a chance to win or prove himself after being bought out by the Vancouver Canucks.

Up front, the Lightning are going to lose both Bellemare and Perry. Perry’s made it clear he plans to hit the open market, and the team probably doesn’t have enough cap room to re-sign Bellemare. The same can be said for Killorn, though there’s a slim chance he takes a hometown discount to stay if Brisebois decides to trade Colton for a few draft picks.

For the Lightning to be able to re-sign Killorn, the team would need to trade Colton and get Killorn to take a two to three year deal worth less than two million dollars. That’s unlikely; his last contract was $31.15 million over seven years. That carried a cap hit of $4.45 million each season.

Looking towards the future, re-signing Killorn would not only cost the team a player with a knack for scoring big goals in Colton but also could force them to part with both captain Steven Stamkos and top-line winger Brandon Hagel next summer.

Is it worth the potential cost? Probably not. Whatever happens, however, the Lightning must find a way to re-sign either Colton or Killorn. Losing both would be a big blow to the team’s hopes of being a playoff contender in 2023-24’.

Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

4 thoughts on “Lightning Must Re-Sign One of Killorn or Colton

    1. That would be my choice as well.

      He’s a great third line player who can score big goals. Down year last season but I expect him to step up if he gets a new deal and remains with the Lightning.

  1. I would look for Peter Holland to get a tryout on defense. I would not blame Killorn for leaving. He has 2 rings and is getting to that age where I would go for the money but keep my home in Tampa for retirement. He has good years left but the Lightning dont really have the cap space to keep him unless he just wants to take a cut to stay here. That could possibly happen. Colton still has headroom for improvement and would be more advantageous to keep but he also has the rings and could go for the money which would help Tampa restock the shelves with the trade value.

    1. Honestly, it would take more than just trading Colton to have enough cap space to re-sign Killorn for what he wants. I’d love to keep him but looks more unlikely now that he rejected Tampa Bay’s offer to him. Honestly, I can’t blame him for taking the money. I will support him no matter what though and wish him all the best wherever he lands.

      As for Colton, I don’t think we can afford to lose both him and Killorn. Our forward depth is getting semi thin as it is. Replacing two established NHL players (one who’s still young and can only get better) could leave us with nobody ready to fill in if, god forbid, there are injuries.

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