I can't believe it either. Injuries matter, but Stamkos should be the difference in playoff seed, not whether they are a playoff contender or not. I'm very surprised by it.
I don't follow other teams' cap issues very closely, but remember wondering how Yzerman was going to make it work when he kept Stamkos and extended Hedman. With Johnson and Drouin pending UFAs (right?), he's going to have his hands full.
Hedman's and Vasilevsky's extensions for next season are kicking in.
Then they have RFA's Drouin, Palat, Tyler Johnson and Sustr.
Right now they have $7.9 in cap space, throw in Bishop and Boyle that gets you down to roughly $14.4 million. When Hedman and Vasilevsky take effect that brings it down to nearly $8.4.
Which makes me wonder what in the (frank) Yzerman was thinking in trying to lock in Shatty long term on a deal. Some of those RFA's would've had to be coming the other way but still.
Bare minimum you know they're going to want to keep Drouin. I don't know what he's going to do.
The Lightning had to move Boyle and Bishop just to afford roster bonuses coming due to Drouin and a couple of other guys who are due them shortly. The reason for having to move them is Stamkos is returning shortly and when his LTIR number starts counting against the cap, they were actually short the necessary space before the trades.
As to this season, they lost 3 of their defenseman to injury for extended periods of time at various points this season, on top of Callahan and Stamkos being out. Imagine the Blues without Parayko for 6 weeks, Tarasenko since October, and Steen for all but one month of the season. Then add injuries to Bouwmeester, Gunnarson and Bortuzzo at basically the same time. That's what the Lightning have dealt with this season. They've essentially had 2 AHL defenseman playing alot of minutes since mid-November through mid-February when the D finally got healthy. Their forward depth has been what's kept them competitive. The Shattenkirk deal proposed to the Lightning fell through weeks ago (in other words mid-January when the Lightning were slumping and they were still fighting D injuries). They are now almost healthy, made a couple trades, and "ta-da", are winning again due to actually being healthy, minus Stamkos and Callahan. Everyone tends to focus on the big name injuries only when talking about other teams while not knowing the total injury story and how much that impacts the team. There is a reason Cooper hasn't even been mentioned in hot seat rumors. It's a damn miracle the Lightning are only 5 points out given the injuries he's been dealt. And I doubt Yzerman is done dealing given who he has to re-sign next season and the limited space available when Hedman's contract kicks in.