The mailbag is back with your questions about Lightning Land, present and future.
To have a question answered, use the hashtag, #bpmailbag on Twitter, or respond on our messageboard.
@BoltProspects if you're Yzerman, what type of contracts are you aiming for with Johnson, Panik, and Palat? Panik shorter than the rest?
One-year deals are usually reserved for players who either want to prove something or need to prove something. Panik definitely fits the bill here, though Cooper and Co. love his potential. I could definitely see a 1-2 year restricted free agent deal for him and 2-3 year deals for the others. Johnson is 23 and Palat 22, with 27 being the unrestricted free agent age. Tampa Bay likely wants to have their contracts end a year before they’re eligible for UFA years to protect their rights. Both are definite core players who are part of the future success of the club.
@BoltProspects Do you see Kucherov fitting into Tampa Bay in the future? With potential top-6 forwards coming up, trade or keep?#BPmailbag
Keep. Cooper uses three lines that can score and Yzerman wants as much skill and hockey IQ as he can find. Kucherov fits right in as a winger with elite playmaking and shooting skills. In my opinion, he’s one of the future core pieces on the wing, along with Drouin and Palat. He just has to find his groove in the NHL, like all young players. He’s shown he’s willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the lineup, but some take longer than others. He’s definitely one to retain.
@BoltProspects Regardless of post-season, what moves do you expect SY to make in the off-season? #BPmailbag
I think the first move he has to make is to create room for Drouin in the top-9. As I’ve talked about before, Purcell may be the most expendable (Drouin and Kucherov are in the same player-type and are higher priorities for the future), and Purcell doesn’t have a no-trade clause. The trick will be finding someone who will take on his contract, though Tampa Bay can pay up to 50% of it (and may have to). It may be a cap-floor team like Nashville or Florida, without much return. Salo is an unrestricted free agent and Brewer is one year away from UFA status, so Yzerman – one would think – has to add a mid/late 20’s defenseman to the mix. Preferably a righty shot. Then again, I thought Yzerman would make a move on D last summer and he didn’t. To be a Cup contender next season, Tampa Bay needs better high-end depth on D.
@BoltProspects #bpmailbag what do you think of Brown earning time over Kucherov? Kuchie seems to have been more of an impact player.
It’s all about roster composition and they are different kinds of players. Brown… aka “Brownahan”… falls into the complimentary player role like Ryan Callahan . They do most of the line’s work in the corners and high-traffic areas to get the puck to the skill players like Kucherov. Brown is blossoming in this role – especially on the forecheck. He was a scorer in college and can be a 15-goal guy at the NHL level. The hockey gods aren’t being very kind to his shot right now. Kucherov will be on a scoring line with someone like Brown… previously aka “Brownov”… on the other side of him. That’s why the Brown-Namestnikov-Kucherov line was SO good together in Syracuse earlier this year. Perfect line composition.
I also don’t care for the name “Kuchie,” but that’s for another mailbag.
@RileyB_77 (similar question from @jayslightning79):
Where does kunyk fit in our NHL roster? He has his own locker and jersey for the bolts now #bpmailbag
Cody Kunyk , the WCHA Player of the Year, was signed to a 1-year deal by the Lightning and assigned to Tampa Bay. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer. This is a new trend in courting NCAA free agents. Teams put them right on their NHL roster so they get NHL money right away. Tampa Bay did this with JT Brown a couple years ago and Brown got his money, but missed out on Norfolk’s Calder Cup run because he wasn’t eligible. Essentially he/his agent, took the money over the playoffs. It’s a business, don’t forget, and these are kids just out of o college and the dollar figures for AHL time is significantly less than AHL time in most cases. Andrej Sustr  did the same last year, but was eligible for the Calder Cup run in Syracuse. He got his NHL money.
Kunyk is getting $900K (pro-rated) for practicing with the Lightning, which makes sense this year because Syracuse isn’t going to make the playoffs. From what Cooper has said so far, Kunyk is unlikely to see any NHL game time, or if he is, it will be minimal. Essentially his pro playing career starts next year, and all signs point to Syracuse.
@BoltProspects #bpmailbag any college or Junior league's undrafted signing this month and ending up in SYR?
From reports out of Tampa, there won’t be any additional free agent signings after Kunyk, but that could be just talk. Steve Yzerman was at one of Christian Frolin's games recently. The UMass-Lowell defenseman is a righty and plays hard in all three zones. He's a prime target if the Lightning are interested, and they were in on previous NCAA FA defensemen Danny DeKeyser (Red Wings) and Justin Schultz (Oilers). Junior playoffs are underway and there may be a free agent signee, but Gourde was just signed in the AHL and he make occupy that spot (if there was only a couple). There are drafted junior players about to be eligible for Syracuse: Adam Erne  (QMJHL Quebec, who is down 3-1 in their opening round series), Dylan Blujus  (OHL North Bay, who is down 2-1). Slater Koekkoek , if he wasn’t injured, would be getting ready to jump on a plane as his Spitfires are down 3-0 to London. He just had shoulder surgery, though.
@BoltProspects Do you think O'Donnell goes another year at UND or could he come to Syracuse next season? #bpmailbag
I think he plays out his eligibility as a senior at North Dakota. I don’t think he’s a lock for a contract by any means, though he really came on at the end of the year. He’s a complimentary player for the former Sioux. You’d like to see your prospects be on-ice leaders. O’Donnell could play himself into this role as a senior next year. I don’t know that Yzerman will sign anyone he doesn’t think will play in the NHL one day, and the book is still out on prospects like O’Donnell and Jimmy Mullin .
RSchmitz (via BP messageboard):
If we go to war with Russia, does Vasi still come over?
No. Vasilevskiy will be lifted into the sky with a blocker, trapper, and stick to save missiles from hitting Moscow. He’s too valued in his home country.
DannyBolt (via BPMB):
With this latest shoulder injury, where does Koekkoek shake out for next year? Should he be ready for training camp? Is he AHL eligible for next year? Is it NHL or another year of Juniors?
According to the Tampa Bay Times, he'll be ready for camp. He can play in Syracuse next year and that’s where I expect him to begin.
Derek28 (via BPMB):
Who would be your "under the radar" pick to make the NHL team out of training camp next season?
If it wasn’t for his injury, my pick would be Koekkoek. You have to look where there could be openings, and there just aren’t any at forward (at least in the top-9). Outside the top-9, Cedric Paquette  could make a run at a fourth line spot, but there really isn’t one available unless Malone is bought out. Sustr could make another run on defense, but he’s on the radar.
aapbolt (via BPMB):
Will Erne be eligible for Syracuse next year? If I remember the rules for US born players are a bit different and they can move to the AHL earlier than their Canadian counterparts.
Nationality doesn’t matter, actually. If you were drafted out of Canadian juniors, you have to be 20 to play in the AHL. Erne will be 19 next fall, so it’s NHL or QMJHL for him. All signs point to Erne returning to Quebec City.
That's all for this week. Be sure to use the #BPMailbag hashtag on Twitter for your questions!