Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Names for Lightning fans to watch as NHL free agency opens Saturday

The Lightning were among the first teams to show interest in defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk this week. [AP photo]

The Lightning were among the first teams to show interest in defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk this week. [AP photo]

BRANDON — The Lightning enters today's noon opening of free agency hoping to cross off the two main items on its wish list:

A top-four defenseman.

A top-nine wing.

It looks like the Lightning could fill both needs with a splash, as it is in the running for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and wing Justin Williams.

It would make the expected signing of veteran defenseman Dan Girardi seem like the undercard.

Girardi, 33, who was bought out by the Rangers after 11 seasons, would likely come on a short-term, relatively inexpensive deal.

The big fish, however, has always been Shattenkirk, 28, a puck-moving, power play-quarterbacking, top-four caliber defenseman. The Lightning has been courting Shattenkirk since the six-day free agency period opened Sunday, and it should find out today if it will win the sweepstakes; the Devils, with the most cap space in the league and proximity to Shattenkirk's New Rochelle, N.Y., home, appear to be the toughest competition.

The Lightning is also a finalist for Williams, 35, aka "Mr. Game 7." The right wing, who scored 24 goals a year ago, is also drawing interest from the likes of the Islanders and Flyers.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman should have around $10 million of cap space to play with when you take into account expected signings of restricted free agents Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek.

Yzerman explained why free agency is "tricky."

"You better be prepared to give more term and more money than you want on July 1," Yzerman said. "Or you wait until after. Or you wait until after and you might miss out. It's tricky. We've done a lot here to give ourselves a little bit of flexibility. We don't want to put ourselves right back in the same position if we're not confident that it's really going to make a difference."

Here are names to watch as noon rolls around:

Justin Williams, RW

Getty Images

He is a proven secondary scorer, a clutch playoff performer (former Conn Smythe winner) and a leader in the room, which could add to Tampa Bay's young forward group. The Stars, Islanders and Flyers are also likely in the mix, with Williams wanting to play for a contender.

Dan Girardi, D

AP photo

Sounds like it's a done deal with the Lightning and Girardi, who was bought out this summer after 11 seasons with the Rangers. Girardi, 33, has been banged up the past couple seasons, no doubt the result of a career built on shotblocking and shutdown 'D'. A great character guy and lockeroom presence, but doesn't provide much offense (15 points last season) and likely better suited for a third pairing role at this stage in his career. Signing is kind of a head-scratcher, but it may not be the only move Yzerman makes to address blueline.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D

Getty Images

He could get a bigger deal in New Jersey, which has $27 million in cap space and would make him the No. 1 defenseman. But the Devils were also last in the Eastern Conference last season, not nearly as close to being a contender as Tampa. Don't read too much into the fact Shattenkirk reportedly nixed a trade from St. Louis to the Lightning in January. It sounds like there would be mutual interest from Shattenkirk, we just don't know if it will lead to a deal. The Lightning no doubt used the same no state income taxes selling point as it did with Steven Stamkos last summer. For example, a seven-year, $6.5 million annual average over seven years in Tampa would be the same as $7 million over seven in New Jersey.

Chris Kunitz, LW

Getty Images

The Lightning is in the mix for Kunitz, 37, a four-time Stanley Cup champion. Kunitz averaged 23 goals per season from 2010-16, dropping to nine last season. But Kunitz could also provide some grit, averaging 230 hits per season since 2014. Likely a backup plan behind Williams.

Jaromir Jagr, RW

Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS

Jagr, 45, may have joked on Twitter Thursday that he's getting no calls in free agency. But there has been interest in the future Hall of Famer, who still had 16 goals and 30 assists last season for the Panthers. Jagr wants to play one more year (at least) and could be an intriguing option for Tampa Bay. He doesn't have the same speed, but provides size, scoring touch and a unique presence in the room. A one-year deal with incentives could make sense.

SLAP SHOTS: It doesn't appear like a Lightning reunion with Brian Boyle is happening, Tampa Bay not reaching out to the veteran in the free agency window; makes sense, though, with the Lightning not needing a center.... Tampa Bay did not reach out to free agent wing Thomas Vanek, or free agent defensemen Cody Franson, Karl Alzner.

Joe Smith can be reached at Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.

Names for Lightning fans to watch as NHL free agency opens Saturday 06/30/17 [Last modified: Saturday, July 1, 2017 8:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cannon Fodder podcast: One last look at Bucs-Dolphins


    Times Bucs writer Greg Auman looks back on Tampa Bay's wild 30-20 win over the Dolphins, their second straight win and first on the road this season, the good and bad of that, plus a major off-field story now surrounding QB Jameis Winston. Listen below:

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Robert McClain (36) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. (Loren Elliott, Times)
  2. Buccaneers-Dolphins Turning Point, Week 11: Cool, calm Fitzmagic


    On Sunday, the Buccaneers and Dolphins played one of those football games that gets only an obligatory mention at the end of highlight shows. In that spirit, this week's Turning Point will focus mostly on the final three minutes of Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed about 60 percent of his passes Sunday and threw for 275 yards in a 30-20 win over the Dolphins. He threw two touchdown passes and no interceptions. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

  3. 3-2-1, BAM! Watch the Georgia Dome being imploded in downtown Atlanta


    ATLANTA — One of the nation's largest domed stadiums has been destroyed in a scheduled implosion in downtown Atlanta.

    The Georgia Dome is destroyed in a scheduled implosion Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Atlanta. The dome was not only the former home of the Atlanta Falcons but also the site of two Super Bowls, 1996 Olympics Games events and NCAA basketball tournaments among other major events. [Associated Press]
  4. Rick and Tom podcast: As Jameis Winston faces another accusation, Bucs win with Ryan Fitzpatrick


    The Bucs win again behind backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a defense that creates five turnovers against the Dolphins. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the game, including …

    Jameis Winston cheers as middle linebacker Kwon Alexander  intercepts a pass during the first half of the Bucs' win over the Dolphins. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Auto racing: Martin Truex captures Cup championship

    Auto racing

    HOMESTEAD — Martin Truex capped the most successful season of his journeyman career as NASCAR's champion.

    Martin Truex dominated NASCAR’s top series with eight wins and his first Cup championship.