Lightning Strikes Twice in the Same Place

It was just about two years ago that the Lightning signed Brad Richards to a five-year, $39 million contract, on the strength of his performance in Tampa’s 2004 Stanley Cup run.
Richards, while talented and versatile, doesn’t have great offensive numbers, though (he never had a 30-goal NHL season) and isn’t a typical shut-down center. Nor is he a playmaker.
So Tampa gave a lot of money to a guy with no clear-cut role and gave him enough money that they couldn’t really sign anyone else because of cap issues. Which is probably why Tampa breathed a sigh of relief when they were able to trade Richards to Dallas late last season.
It’s also why it’s downright bizarre Tampa would make an eerily similar move in signing Ryan Malone to a seven-year, $31.5 million contract (And did anyone else know Tampa got this signing party started by signing Ryan Malone’s dad as their head of scouting last week?).
I know a lot of people are down on this deal because of the length and the amount, and I don’t know that I would have made it, but I think Malone has a lot of potential, especially if paired with Vinny Prospal, whom the Lightning just re-signed. Malone’s numbers in Pittsburgh, playing with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby haven’t been spectacular, but I think it’s more a symptom of those guys wanting the puck a lot, than Malone being lazy or untalented. Still, it’s a risky move for Tampa, and a move that hasn’t worked for them in the past. Malone represents a huge part of their cap. If they can’t get what they need from him, and I’m guessing they just want a decent second-line for once, he’s going to be very tough to move.
In case you’re wondering how Tampa can afford all of these players, here are their salary cap numbers so far. Obviously, this will change if Tampa also manages to sign Brian Rolston.
Speaking of signings, Bob McKenzie says because it’s the final year of the CBA, teams can’t use the Performance Bonus Cushion. The Performance Bonus Cushion can be used in a few scenarios, but it’s most frequently used on players 35 and older who are on one-year contracts. It lets teams use performance incentives to pay them, with the payment counting against next year’s cap, should the incentives push teams over the current year’s cap. A lot of teams were planning to go after guys like Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin using this technique. Steve Zipay says he’s hearing McKenzie is wrong and the cushion is allowed.
Finally, what’s with draft-pick Max Nicastro? After the Wings drafted him over Nashville, Nicastro said his “heart sank.” How can you not be psyched about being a Red Wing? How can you actively want to play in Nashville. He must really love country music.