The Hockey News broke the story last night that Ottawa RFA defenseman Andrej Meszaros of the Ottawa Senators had "agreed to the terms of a multi-year offer sheet with an average salary in excess of $5 million per season," which would be more than he wanted from the Sens and what they were willing to give him.
If the have Bolts signed him to an offer sheet, they'd have to give up a first-, second- and third-round pick as compensation for that salary level. One problem: The CBA mandates that those picks must be the team's own selections and not acquired via trade, and the Lightning's third-round pick was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the negotiating rights of Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts. Oops.
So are the Lightning talking trade with the Penguins to get that pick back? Could one of Tampa's small horde of extra forwards head to Pittsburgh as compensation? The bottom line is this: Meszaros's camp is being bizarrely quiet on the offer sheet, having not even confirmed it as of yet. And if Tampa Bay is interested, Damian Cristodero of Lightning Strikes believes the Bolts would prefer to trade for the soon-to-be-23-year-old defenseman:
The Lightning already is close to the $56.7-million cap. Another $5-million in salary would send the team in the opposite direction of its stated goal of trimming some of that payroll before the season. A trade would accomplish that as the Senators could have their pick of several decent forwards, including Michel Ouellet and Jussi Jokinen, along with draft choices or prospects. Going the offer sheet route has much uncertainty. Even if the Lightning and Penguins get together and find common ground, the Senators, rather than lose Meszaros for nothing, could ultimately match Tampa Bay's offer.
Tampa Bay's paltry blueline could certainly use a boost from Meszaros, who is also a dangerous player on the power play. And dumping even a little salary would be enormous. But at $5 million a season, if the report's true? Insane, until you realize Mike Green's getting $5.250 million a season against the cap. Not saying the players are comparable; but that's the market.
UPDATE (4:45 p.m.): This is situation gets stranger and stranger. The Hockey News is reporting two different scenarios: One in which Penguins GM Ray Shero is refusing to deal that third-rounder back to the Lightning because he doesn't want anything to do with an RFA offer sheet; and a second in which the source for last night's offer-sheer rumor claims the Pens and Bolts have a deal in place for the pick.
All of this seems to point to the Lightning aggressively pursuing a trade with the Senators, who clearly don't want to pay Meszaros what he (or his representation) believe he's worth. But if Tampa can't legally (under the CBA) sign him to an offer sheet, isn't the leverage completely with Ottawa?