Last week, the Montreal Canadiens pulled out the first offer sheet since 2013 when they offered Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho a five-year contract worth $8.454 million average annual value (AAV). Aho had a breakout season posting 83 points in 82 games, and the Hurricanes matched the offer sheet to keep the Finnish forward in Carolina.
Related: Canadiens Offer Sheet Aho
Now that most of the top free agents have signed, many people speculate more offer sheets are on the way. Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner is at the forefront of these conversations, but Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning has had his name thrown around as a player who could possibly have an offer sheet thrown his way. The 23-year-old is a restricted free agent and with only about $5.5 million in cap space, the Lightning need to prepare for an offer sheet on Point.
Comparing Aho and Point
It was a little surprising to see Aho be the first player given an offer sheet, but he is one of the game’s bright young stars that organizations could have built around. As it was stated earlier, Aho had 83 points in 82 games — 30 goals and 53 assists — all while averaging over 20 minutes a game. His Corsi-for percentage was an elite 57.2%, a number that has continued to rise for Aho in his three NHL seasons. He also had 24 points on the power play as well as four shorthanded goals.
In 79 games last season, Point had 41 goals and 51 assists, good for 92 points overall. While 35 of his points came on the power play, it helps when you have Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman moving the puck on the man advantage. The Lightning simply had better offensive talent than the Hurricanes, a possible reason for Point having more points last year.
Point has played 229 career games thus far and has 198 points. Meanwhile, Aho has 197 points in 242 career games. Aho is going into his age 22 season and Point is a year older at 23, but in terms of production and style, Aho and Point are almost identical (except for their handedness). If Aho got an offer sheet of five years at over $42 million, Point should expect a similar offer, possibly an even larger monetary value since he was a 40-goal scorer last season.
Matching a Possible Offer Sheet
It remains to be seen if Point will get an offer sheet, but assuming he does, the Lightning will have some decisions to make. There’s no question that they aren’t as good offensively if Point isn’t in their lineup, and general manager Julien BriseBois knows this. Point should be BriseBois’ first priority this offseason, but BriseBois will have to move at least one fairly large contract to lock up Point for multiple years.
The Lightning seem to have their goaltending and defense set thus far, but they have six forwards making more than $4 million next season. The problem there is all of those forwards except for Kucherov have no-move or no-trade clauses in their contract. It would have to be the deal of the decade if the Lightning decide to move Kucherov, so BriseBois will have to ask one of the second- or third-liners to move their NTC.
My money is on Tyler Johnson for a few reasons. First, Johnson is making $5 million per season until 2023-24, and if they were to move that contract somewhere else, that would give the Lightning plenty of room to sign Point for $5 million or more for multiple years. Second, Johnson is 28. He’s arguably at the peak of his career and has played 80-plus games in each of the last two seasons.
Related: Lightning Trade Block: Tyler Johnson
His injury history is well documented and that could pose problems in trying to move his contract, but he’s been consistent over the last two seasons. Lastly, Johnson can play all three forward positions. For a team looking for second- or third-line forward depth, Johnson can offer that at multiple positions and potentially score 30 goals in the right environment.
With how comparable Point and Aho are, and given the Lightning’s salary cap situation, Point will likely be given an offer sheet. The Canadiens could try for Point since he offers a lot of the same talent that Aho does, but it would be a tough sell since the Canadiens are in the same division as the Lightning. It’s also worth noting that both Aho and Point are represented by the same agent — Gerry Johansson — and Point is likely looking for a similar contract to Aho.
In a tweet from Pierre LeBrun, he said the Canadiens targeted Point before Aho, but now that they missed out on the latter, they may try to target Point once again.
If the right offer comes along and the Lightning believe their forward core can sustain the offensive production they had last season, Point might not be donning the Lightning symbol next season.