The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing a challenging situation with star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy sidelined for the next eight to ten weeks following surgery on his lower back; Vasilevskiy had a microdiscectomy on a lumbar back herniation Thursday morning. This leaves the Lightning management in a tight spot, caught between the need for a reliable replacement and the constraints of their salary cap.
With backup goalie Jonas Johansson’s limited experience (only 35 games), the Lightning are exploring various avenues to fill the void. However, their current cap situation, already pressed against the $83.5 million limit, adds complexity to their decision-making. Vasilevskiy’s $9.5 million annual salary means they must navigate the intricacies of long-term injury reserve while ensuring they have enough cap space for his return.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun offered some interesting insight into what might be next for the Lightning, and other NHL scribes have offered up some options in terms of viable goaltending solutions.
Free agency seems the most straightforward route, with goalies like Jaroslav Halak and former Lightning backup Brian Elliott available. Another option could be waiting for other teams to place their third-string goalies on waivers. Potential names include Toronto’s Martin Jones, Pittsburgh’s Magnus Hellberg, and Florida’s Anthony Stolarz.
Trade possibilities also loom, with Buffalo’s Eric Comrie and Calgary’s Dan Vladar on the radar. Some analysts have suggested roster adjustments, including waiving and demoting certain players and utilizing LTIR provisions to create additional cap space.
For now, the Lightning are going to roll with the players and goaltenders they have. Coach Jon Cooper called Visaleskiy a luxury and noted this is an opportunity for others to step up and the team to come together.
The Lightning Have to Decide How Much They Want to Push The Issue
The Lightning’s management faces a delicate balancing act, needing to secure a reliable goaltender without jeopardizing their cap situation. With several options on the table, including free agents, waiver wire pickups, and trades, their decision will significantly impact their performance during Vasilevskiy’s absence. The question becomes whether any of the players available will be a strong enough solution to ensure the Lightning stays competitive wile Vasileskiy is out.
The coming weeks will be crucial as they strategize to maintain their competitive edge in the challenging NHL landscape.
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