Lightning have an internal Alex Killorn replacement if they trade him

Rumors are just rumors until they become facts. After the Tampa Bay Lightning’s colossal collapse to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it seemed like the whole team was on the trading block. However, three players have continued to rise to the top each season when the salary cap issue has been mentioned: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn. Two of those players have already been traded – Killorn is the last man standing. We’ll take a look at what his future might look like with the team and who could possibly replace him.

Development of Killorn from a third-round draft pick

When the Lightning drafted Killorn in the third round of the 2007 NHL Draft, he informed the team that he was committed to Harvard University for four years. After earning a 3.5 GPA, he went to the American Hockey League (AHL), playing for future NHL coach Jon Cooper.

On February 16, 2013, Killorn scored his first NHL goal for the Lightning. At that time, he probably couldn’t imagine that in less than a decade he would be the team’s longest-serving player, drafted a year ahead of Steven Stamkos. He’s seen it all: thrilling victories and heartbreaking defeats. He also has two Stanley Cups, along with two boat parades, to cement his legacy.

There’s no doubt that Killorn is a major contributor to the Lightning’s success. At 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds, he will be 33 before the start of the season. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he is a mainstay along the boards, digging for the puck, making accurate passes, blocking shots and scoring timely goals. He is also very resilient, having missed only 15 games in his entire career, or 723 regular season games leading to 402 points. Last season, he collected 25 goals and 34 assists in 82 games, ranking among the best of his career.

Normally productive in the playoffs, Killorn has scored 34 goals and 38 assists in 134 playoff games and has made his presence known to opponents except this last playoff. In the 2022 playoffs, he had just four assists in 23 games and was 5 under. With Brayden Point injured, it would have helped if he could provide a few goals. Of course, no one doubts his dedication, as he does a lot of things that go unnoticed and he continues to contribute to the success of the team. But is his salary worth four playoff points?

In last season’s playoffs, Alex Killorn had just four assists. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Approaching the end of his seven-year, $4.45 million contract that expires at the end of the 2022-23 season, Killorn could be the next victim of the salary cap. So the question is: who can replace him in the team? The answer could be Nick Paul, 27. The 6-foot-3, 224-pound forward excels at many of the same things Killorn does.

Nick Paul secures his future with Lightning

Signature Paul on a seven-year contract worth $3.15 million a year, could make Killorn’s eventual departure a non-factor. Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he was traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he spent seven seasons. Not known as a prolific scorer, he was one of the Senators’ best defensive forwards and earned a reputation for taking the puck from opponents and rarely giving it up once he got it. When the Lightning traded him, they expected a similar style of play.

Related: Lightning’s 4 best contracts for the 2022-23 season

Paul found his rhythm shorthanded, scoring one shorthanded goal and one assist in 21 games with the team last season. Then, when he scored two goals in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he endeared himself to his teammates and surprised his coaches. The Lightning traded for Paul to make them harder to face. While his offensive production may not match Killorn’s at this point in his career, both players can be counted on to play a two-way game and be in the right place on the ice.

With other players involved, is this the last season Killorn will play for the Lightning? In the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, he said he was surprised to find himself playing on the same line as Martin St. Louis and Stamkos. He was quoted as saying, “It’s not that I didn’t have confidence in myself, I thought I was going to play, but it doesn’t matter if you have a good career or not, you’re still going to finish at 35, 36 or 37. After That, what are you doing? I was quite interested in doing other things too.

The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate
Tampa Bay Lightning’s Alex Killorn is the team’s longest-serving current member (Anders Wiklund/TT via AP)

Killorn’s desire to retire as Lightning is well known. Maybe other interests will cause him to hang up his skates rather than get traded. His name is on the Stanley Cup twice; some of the best hockey players never win. If the Lightning make the playoffs next season and win another Cup, they will need to produce more than four assists. If he doesn’t, the ice tilts in Paul’s favor so he can fill the void.

Robert M. Larson