The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Alex Killorn to a seven-year, $31.15 million contract extension.
The new deal, which carries a $4.45 million annual average value, allows both sides to avoid arbitration (a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday).
Killorn, who will be 27 when the regular season starts, is coming off a 40-point regular-season campaign. He also tallied 13 points in 17 postseason games as the Lightning made it to the Conference Finals for the second year in a row. Killorn played a major part in the Lightning’s 2014-2015 Stanley Cup run, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 26 games, good enough for third on the team behind only Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.
This extension comes a few weeks after captain Steven Stamkos elected to stay in Tampa Bay rather than chase more money via free agency.
Had Killorn somehow tested the open market this year or next offseason, he could have easily secured a more lucrative deal. However, he credits Stamkos and the example he set earlier this offseason for inspiring him to take a paycut (or at least less than he could have earned as a free agent).
“When you have your captain, the leader of your team, taking a pretty substantial discount, I think that sets a precedent for everyone else,” Killorn said. “For me, it wasn’t just about money. I think the contract was a great contract, but living in Florida, playing on a team that has a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup every year is important.”
On the flip side, Tampa Bay management was more than comfortable negotiating a long-term deal at this price point for a player of Killorn’s caliber.
“He’s a very reliable, very useful in all situations player,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. “He can play right wing, can play left wing, can play in all spots. He’s played very well in the playoffs for us. … One thing that was important to Alex is he wants to play in Tampa and he’d like a long-term deal. And we were able to work it out.”
Killorn, originally drafted in the third round (77) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has spent his entire NHL career with the Lightning. He has 53 goals and 138 points in 272 career regular-season games as well as 15 goals and 33 points in 47 career playoff games.
All things considered, this is a solid deal for Tampa Bay. Killorn’s size and skill make him an important piece of the team’s core, and he elevates his play come playoff time. In fact, Killorn is tied for eighth place for most playoff points scored over the past three postseasons, trailing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov, Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa.
However, the Killorn deal may still come as a surprise to many considering the breadth of talent the Lightning will still need to fit under the cap in the next few seasons. Specifically, Nikita Kucherov has yet to agree to terms on a new deal with the Lightning, and forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin will be restricted free agents next summer. Vladislav Namestnikov has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29, but he won’t command the same kind of money as the other forwards mentioned. Defenseman Nikita Nesterov is also a restricted free agent, but, like Namestnikov, he will not be seeking a contract in the same ballpark as some of the other more skilled players.
Signing superstars like Stamkos and Victor Hedman to such reasonable deals with cap hits of $8.5 million and $7.875 million, respectively, does give Yzerman some breathing room, but fitting everyone under the salary cap will be no ordinary feat. Perhaps some of the players will follow in the footsteps of their teammates and sign at a discount in order to keep the core of the team together. But no matter what, it will be interesting to see what Yzerman has in store moving forward.
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