Lightning Trade Block: Tyler Johnson

Throughout his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tyler Johnson has been, without a doubt, one of the organization’s most valuable players. He has developed from an undersized, unsigned free-agent to one of the franchises’ faces since joining the team in 2011.

Despite this, for the third straight year, Johnson finds himself in the middle of the Lightning’s trade speculation. It’s not that he is a bad player, either, as he is coming off a 29-goal season for the second time in his career.

Tyler Johnson
With his speed and skilled play, Tyler Johnson quickly established himself as one of the faces of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s rebuild. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This scoring acumen creates an interesting scenario for a cap-crunched Lightning squad, who signed Johnson to a seven-year, $35-million contract back in 2017. With every dollar counting, could Tampa Bay look to move their top-six forward while his value is still high?

The Case for Keeping Johnson

Outside of an injury-filled 2015-16 season where he only posted 38 points, Johnson has been a fairly consistent scoring presence in the Lightning’s top-six. He has posted at least 45 points in five of his six seasons with Tampa Bay, all while playing important minutes on the penalty kill.

While Johnson may no longer be one of the fastest players on the team, he still brings with him a speedy, smart game that pairs perfectly with the Lightning’s offensive weapons. When he is on, he is able to break through the opponents’ defenses, opening up scoring chances while drawing penalties along the way.

Sure, Johnson hasn’t been able to replicate the 72-point breakout season he enjoyed with the Triplets back in 2014-15, but he still is a valuable player for the Lightning nonetheless.

The Case for Trading Johnson

The main issue for Johnson is his redundancy in the Lightning’s lineup. With Brayden Point establishing himself as the franchise’s latest small, fast and uber-talented forward, Johnson’s game plan just doesn’t carry the same weight with the team anymore.

Also, if you watch him throughout a season, he has a tendency to disappear for sometimes weeks at a time. No, he isn’t the streakiest scorer on the team, but he will go missing from the scoresheet for two or three weeks before erupting for six goals in three games.

Tampa Bay Lightning Tyler Johnson Steven Stamkos
While he can be a dominating player at times, Johnson tends to disappear from the scoresheet for sometimes weeks at a time. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

This wouldn’t be a huge issue, but given his contract, the Lightning need Johnson to be a more consistent player, especially in the playoffs. While he dominated the 2015 Playoffs, scoring a team-high 13 goals, he has since been unable to put the team on his back and carry them to a win.

Can the Lightning Trade Johnson?

The real question for the Lightning is, could they even trade Johnson if they wanted to? Along with the seven-year extension, they gave him a no-movement-clause that pretty much guarantees that he will be sticking around Tampa Bay until at least 2021.

Even if they were able to get him to waive the clause, the Lightning would then need to find a team he would be willing to play for and that could take on the remaining six years of his contract. While there may be teams happy to add a 20 to 30-goal scoring forward on the books for $5 million, Johnson will likely only want to play for a Cup contender like Tampa Bay.

Tyler Johnson Tampa Bay Lightning
Even if the Lightning wanted to trade Johnson, there are a myriad of reasons why this would be difficult or even impossible to make happen. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So, while a market may exist for Johnson, it would be limited and potentially not fruitful for the Lightning. Sure, they may be able to shed some salary, but failing to bring back an asset that helps the team now or for the future would feel like a loss overall.

What Should Lightning Do With Johnson?

Given everything we know, expect Tampa Bay to hold onto Johnson this offseason. If they were going to trade him, the best time would have been before his new contract kicked in during the 2018 offseason, when they had the full NHL to shop him to.

Related: The Lightning’s Trade Block: Ondrej Palat

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Lightning, either. Despite some rightful concern surrounding his gameplay in recent seasons, Johnson still is a solid top-six forward. If being forced to hold onto a 25-goal, 50-point forward ends up being the worst thing that happens to the team this offseason, then Tampa Bay will have a lot to celebrate heading into the 2019-20 season.