Lightning GM confirms team will look different next season due to flat salary cap

Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s been a whirlwind week for the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions.

“I do not care how easy Pat Maroon makes it look,” the Tampa Bay Lighting’s general manager said with a smile, “but it is really hard to win a championship.”

Julien BriseBois, who stepped into his current role with the team in September 2018, joined a group of reporters on Zoom on Thursday to talk about the team’s unconventional championship season.

“You need the stars to align for you,” he said. “And this year, we were able to win the Stanley Cup and it was an incredible incredible run and an incredible, incredible experience.”

The entire experience started with a carefully-crafted team.

BriseBois highlighted three areas of concern he had hoped to correct this season, which included reducing the number of quality chances against them, being more physical around the net and managing the game better.

“It was a work in process during the season,” he said in regards to the management of the game. “But come playoff time, we did a really good job.”

That team effort touched every player, old and new, but unfortunately, BriseBois confirmed what appeared to be inevitable.

“Even though I would like to bring this whole group back together again – that would be my preference – the reality is I cannot do that,” he said. “The cap does not allow that to happen.”

EDMONTON, ALBERTA – SEPTEMBER 28: General Manager Julien BriseBois of the Tampa Bay Lightning poses with the Stanley Cup following the series-winning victory over the Dallas Stars in Game Six of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place on September 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The salary cap will not increase this season as a result of the pandemic, so every team is being forced to get creative with their spending. The Lightning organization is not an exception and it will have to do some juggling to abide by that flat salary cap.

“Winning is a hard business at this level,” said BriseBois. “If we want to win another cup, it is my job to make some hard decisions. Every decision I am going to make in the next couple of days is to improve the odds that we will be a contender.”

He listed three players as “priorities.” Those players are forward Anthony Cirelli and defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak.

“Their salary increases, which are well-deserved, are going to eat into our cap space. The cap is stuck at $81.5 million for this upcoming year and, in my estimation, for two years after that,” he explained. “The other players, who are free agents who I would like to bring back, I will not be able to bring back because I will not have the cap space to do it.”

Although BriseBois is still in the process of gathering information, he is aware of the rapidly-approaching deadline. If a team would like to submit a qualifying offer to any of its unrestricted free agents, it needs to do it by Oct. 7.  

“The longer we wait, the fewer options we may have because other teams may have done something else,” BriseBois said. “I have already been in touch with all of the agents of my players.”

He labeled Sergachev as the “Most Improved Player” on the team and, when he was asked who exceeded his expectations this season, named two players: Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon.

“They were key contributors to our team,” he said. “And they may have been exactly what we needed.”

Yes, they may have been exactly what the Lightning needed to win the second Stanley Cup in team history.

“It is very impressive what the players were able to do and I am so happy for each and every one of them,” said BriseBois. “I am in awe of what our guys accomplished. They had to dig deep physically and mentally. It was awesome and it was awe-inspiring. It was so incredible what they did. I am truly appreciative and grateful for everything that they have done.”

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