Free agency is now just a few days away and many teams are already looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market in late July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. The Lightning have cleared a little bit of money through expansion, but still don’t have much to retain their pending free agents.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Ross Colton – At the bottom of every Stanley Cup roster, there are always a few homegrown players that provide depth for a bargain bin cost. The Lightning have proven their development system can create NHL players out of almost anyone, and they did it again for fourth-round pick Ross Colton. The 24-year-old forward had 13 goals in 53 combined games, but none bigger than the one on July 7, tapping home a David Savard pass to put the Lightning ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. It would end up being the only goal they needed, meaning whatever happens from here, Colton has a Cup-winning goal on his resume. As an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent he may deserve a slight raise, but the Lightning simply don’t have the budget for one. It will be interesting to see if they can fit him in for really anything more than the $750K league minimum at this point.
D Cal Foote – Many were surprised last week when the Seattle Kraken decided to take Yanni Gourde in expansion instead of Foote. The 22-year-old defenseman was the 14th overall pick in 2017 and made his NHL debut this year, playing 35 games during the regular season. After some deadline additions, he failed to suit up for any playoff games, but will be in the running for the third pairing again next season. In fact, with Savard and Luke Schenn both pending free agents, the Lightning have only five defensemen under contract for the 2021-22 campaign. Foote’s opportunity is right in front of him, by accepting a short-term, low-salary deal (even potentially his qualifying offer) he stands the best chance of being in the NHL lineup every day.
Other RFAs: F Alex Barre-Boulet, F Taylor Raddysh, F Otto Somppi, F Boris Katchouk, F Ryan Lohin, D Sean Day