In this edition of Tampa Bay Lightning News & Rumors, we’ll discuss free agency, contract extensions, arbitration, and more.
On July 27, the Lightning traded forward Tyler Johnson and a 2023 second-round draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Brent Seabrook. The move was not surprising as the Lightning, who tried to move Johnson last offseason, were up against the salary cap again and needed to offload several contracts. Seabrook has not played since the 2019-20 season due to injury and will be put on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).
Johnson spent nine seasons in Tampa, tallying 361 points in 589 regular-season games and 65 points in 116 postseason games. He played an instrumental role in the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships, notably scoring two goals in Game 3 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. When speaking about Johnson, general manager Julien BriseBois said,
“I’d like to personally thank Tyler for what he has meant to this organization over the past nine years since he joined the Lightning as an undrafted free agent. He played a pivotal role in the success the team has enjoyed and will forever be remembered as two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Bolts. We wish him all the best in Chicago.”– Julien BriseBois
Johnson will be one of many new faces in Chicago this season, joining goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Seth Jones. The Blackhawks organization is fortunate to add Johnson, who was well-loved among Lightning fans and was cherished for his positive impact on the Tampa Bay community.
No Point in Waiting
The day after Johnson was sent to Chicago, Brayden Point put pen to paper on an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $9.5 million. The 25-year-old forward joins Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy as the highest-paid players on the Lightning.
Point has one season remaining on his current contract, so he will be under contract with the Lightning through the 2029-30 season. He has been a force to be reckoned with, scoring 310 points in 351 regular-season games. He led the team in goals, 23, and points, 48, during the 2020-21 regular season. He has also led the league in goals and was second in points during the last two postseasons. Lightning fans can rest easy knowing that the 2014 third-round draft pick will be a cornerstone player in Tampa for the foreseeable future.
Commitment to the Community
The Community Heroes program has been a staple of the Lightning organization since 2011. On July 26, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife Penny announced that they were extending the program for five more years, committing $10 million to the initiative. When speaking about the program’s extension, the Viniks said,
“In 2011, we announced a long-term financial commitment to the Tampa Bay area through the Community Heroes program, and since that time it has become a part of the DNA of the entire Lightning organization. In addition to our recent successes on the ice, the Community Heroes program continues to be a source of pride for our family and a signature moment at every home game. We’re very excited to be furthering our commitment with an additional $10 million to the selfless heroes of the Tampa Bay community and the organizations they serve.”
For the past 10 seasons, the Community Heroes program has honored a local hero at each regular season and playoff home game, gifting them $50,000 to go towards the non-profit charity of their choosing. Through the Community Heroes program, the Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation have donated over $23 million to more than 450 local heroes. The Lightning are also expanding the program, allowing non-profits to apply for funding. The Viniks have had a tremendous impact on and off the ice in Tampa and it is great to see that they will continue to do so for years to come.
Buying on a Budget
Despite being up against the salary cap, BriseBois has done a good job filling key positions during free agency. One of the biggest talking points for the Lightning this offseason was the loss of their entire third-line forward group. However, they will have no problem putting together another strong third line this season. The signing of Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will help fill out their third and fourth lines, adding a veteran presence to a youthful bottom-six forward group. Additionally, goaltender Brian Elliott was brought in to back-up Andrei Vasilevskiy for the 2021-22 season.
|Corey Perry||F||2||$1 million AAV|
|Remi Elie||F||1||Two-way, $750,000|
|Pierre-Edouard Bellemare||F||2||$1 million AAV|
|Zach Bogosian||D||3||$850,000 AAV|
|Maxime Legace||G||1||Two-way, $750,000|
|Andrej Sustr||D||1||Two-way, $750,000|
|Charles Hudon||F||1||Two-way, $750,000|
|Gabriel Dumont||F||1||Two-way, $750,000|
|Gemel Smith||F||2||Two-way, $750,000 AAV|
|Fredrik Claesson||D||1||Two-way, $750,000|
BriseBois also added a familiar face on defense, Zach Bogosian, who will likely play on the right side of the third defensive pairing in a rotation with Cal Foote. It is clear that Bogosian really wanted to be in Tampa this season, taking a lower salary than he could have fetched elsewhere to sign with the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
Unfortunately, the Lightning had to make additional room for their new signings. With the Perry deal falling into their lap, the Lightning had to make room for his contract. To do so, they traded Mitchell Stephens to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick. With the addition of Maxime Legace, the goaltender depth chart also became crowded. Thus, the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for future considerations.
The Lightning have gained a lot of ground in terms of retaining restricted free agents, too. On July 26, they submitted qualifying offers to Ross Colton, Alex Barre-Boulet, Boris Kathouk, Taylor Raddysh, Otto Somppi, Cal Foote, and Sean Day. Barre-Boulet, Katchouk, and Raddysh signed three-year contracts. Foote signed on for two more seasons, while Day and Somppi put pen to paper on one-year deals. The only player that did not sign their qualifying offer was Colton.
Colton was one of 17 players in the NHL to file for arbitration on Aug. 1. Is it time for Lightning fans to panic? Absolutely not. Both sides can continue to negotiate a contract up until arbitration hearings occur, which will be held from Aug. 11 to Aug. 26. After a phenomenal rookie season, it would not be surprising to see him making just over $1 million when he takes the ice this fall. The Lightning will be able to take on that contract, but it is going to put them snugly against the salary cap. Be on the lookout for the Lightning to try to get a deal done prior to the hearings.
Andrew is a freelance writer who covers the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Hockey Writers. He is a passionate hockey fan who grew up near Tampa, Florida. He is a husband, father to a Golden Retriever, and is studying to be a Physician Assistant. Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Mulville