Lightning sign Nicholas Paul for 7 years, desperately need to clear cap space

nicholas paul
May 14, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nick Paul (20) celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second period of game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Friday that they’ve signed forward Nicholas Paul to a seven-year deal worth $22.05 million ($3.150M AAV) ahead of him becoming a UFA on July 13. He just wrapped up a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.35M.

Paul, 27, recorded 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 80 games this season split between the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay. He totaled 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 21 games with the Lightning after being acquired from the Senators for forward Mathieu Joseph and a fourth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft on March 20.

Lightning sign Nicholas Paul

nicholas paul
Jun 22, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Nicholas Paul (20) against the Colorado Avalanche during game four of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Lightning were impressed with Paul after his performance in these playoffs. He collected nine points (five goals, four assists) in 23 games. He scored both of his team’s goals in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first-round series.

According to CapFriendly, the Lightning are $5 million over the cap heading into next season.

This is why news broke on Thursday that the Lightning were working on trading Ryan McDonagh.

According to multiple sources, the Lightning are working with Ryan McDonagh to see if there’s another team he’d consider a trade to. It’s a very, very hard thing for Tampa to think about. McDonagh’s still a tremendous player (he was on the ice for the last shift to preserve the team’s Game 5 victory in Denver that prolonged the Stanley Cup Final) and is hugely popular among his teammates, who were disappointed to hear of the possibility. It’s not what Tampa wants to do, but may have to do.

Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet

Trading McDonagh is going to be extremely difficult and will likely require Tampa to eat some of his $6.75M cap hit. The biggest hurdle has already been overcome by getting McDonagh to partially waive his full no-move clause.

McDonagh, 33, recorded 26 points in 71 games for the Lightning during the 2021-22 season. In the playoffs, he added another 5 points in 23 games and played with a bad finger in the Final.

There should certainly be a market for McDonagh, who is a proven winner and will bring Stanley Cup winning defense to a contender.

–Field Level Media contributed to this article.