The Tampa Bay Lightning and LW Nick Paul have agreed to terms on a seven-year contract worth just over $3 million in average annual value, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. To put things simply, this deal is a bit shady. The Lightning have been dancing around the cap for a while now after signing its “Big 4” to massive contracts. Paul was a great middle-six forward for the Bolts this season, helping them get close to a third straight Cup victory.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Lightning have negative cap space at just around $2 million. Paul’s extension would put them at under $5 million or so over the cap. There have been rumors that the Lightning are looking to move defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is owed $6.75M annually for the next four seasons. That would help the Lightning clear enough cap to get under the figure.
Tampa Bay could also work on finding a new home for wing Alex Killorn, who is on the last year of his contract at a $4.45M hit. The Lightning need to prepare for extensions for either Mikhail Sergachev and/or Erik Cernak going into the 2022-23 season. Center Anthony Cirelli also needs an extension and he could command somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-6M annually.
Lightning Twitter will tell you Paul will likely end up on a second line. Historically, players paid this much don’t really project to being a second-liner. We’ll see how Paul fits in. He scored five goals and had nine points over 23 games for the Bolts this past postseason. Paul had 14 points in 21 games during the regular season. Paul makes sense as a third-line forward who can play on the PP a bit and is tough to play against.
The odd thing about the deal is Paul likely could have signed a bridge deal at 2-3 years, see inflated stats playing with guys like Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, make double what he’s being paid after the bridge. Instead, this is likely his last contract in the NHL. Once it expires, he’ll be in his mid-30’s and is probably signing 1-2 year minimum deals to play in the bottom six, at best.