Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point is an RFA at the end of the season.
Point, who currently has 60 points in 44 games this season, will be expecting a big paycheck by this seasons end. But things that complicate his signing are the extensions of Yanni Gourde ($5.166) and Nikita Kucherov ($9.5), kicking in for next season. Also, Point isn’t the only player that is an upcoming free agent, as there’s also Cedric Paquette, Adam Erne, Braydon Coburn, Anton Stralman, and Dan Girardi.
It’s been announced that the salary cap will rise substantially to $83 million, but that doesn’t mean that the Tampa Bay Lightning can afford everyone. At this moment, the Lightning have $9.876 million in free space for next season. This likely means that the Lightning won’t be able to retain everyone.
In this post, I’m going to take a look at all of the Lightning pending free agents, predict their new contracts and talk about whether or not they will be in Tampa long-term.
Brayden Point: 28 goals, 32 assists, 60 points in 44 games played (1.36 points per game)
Current deal: $0.687 million, his entry-level contract
His closest comparison in playing style is Patrice Bergeron, as Point has emerged as the Lightning’s top two-way center, and has been tasked with defending against the opposition’s top lines.
In terms of point totals, he’s right up there with Mark Scheifele. Since both forwards are young and produce at high totals, along with the salary rising, I can see Point making anywhere’s between $6.5-$7 million per year over an 8 year span ($52-$56 million in total).
With BriseBois in mind, who knows how good of a negotiator the new GM of the Lightning will be, and this Point contract will be his first challenge. If I were the GM, I’d try to get him on an 8 year, $6.75 million deal.
After Point cap space: $3.126 million remains
Cedric Paquette: 8 goals, 2 assists, 10 points in 43 games played (0.23 points per game)
Current deal: $1 million
Cedric Paquette is versatile like Riley Nash, as he performs at high levels when called upon, but is best in the bottom 6 of the forward lines. He is a key penalty killer as well, leading a top PK unit in Tampa. However, Paquette normally doesn’t take much money in contracts, as his last contract was signed for $0.812 million before his 1 year, $1 million current deal. With that said, Paquette salary range looks like anywhere between $1-2 million dollars for another year. Best bet would be a one year $1 million contract yet again.
Cap space after Paquette: $2.126 million
Adam Erne: 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points in 30 games played (0.47 points per game)
Current deal: $1 million
Erne has been a healthy scratch a few times this season, but he is still young and has the potential to be a Matt Martin-esque player. I would re-sign him at another one year deal for $1 million.
Cap space after Erne: $1.126 million
Braydon Coburn: 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points in 41 games played (0.27 points per game)
Current deal: $3.7 million
Coburn has been scratched a few times this season. With the defensive depth that the Tampa Bay Lightning have, it might not make sense to re-sign him. Plus, Coburn is 33 years old and the Lightning have a few options on the back-end that are younger and have more upside. In my opinion, BriseBois will have to choose either Dan Girardi or Coburn, but he can’t afford to sign both. From a salary perspective, both defensemen will likely receive $1-$1.5 million.
Dan Girardi: 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points in 42 games played (0.29 points per game)
Same comparables as Braydon Coburn, as well as salary range.
Current deal: $3 million
Either one of Girardi/Coburn signs a 1 year, $1 million contract
Cap space after Girardi/Coburn sign: $0.126 million
Anton Stralman: 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points in 27 games played (0.44 points per game)
Current deal: $4.5 million
Due to the injuries sustained throughout the season for Stralman, missing nearly half of the total games played, he has still produced at a decent clip for defenseman. He’s a main-stay in Tampa Bay’s top 4 d-pairing, and remains a league-wide underrated defenseman. He is either a must-sign or a massive trade asset for the 2019 off-season/draft day.
Potential Anton Stralman Replacement
After trading away Slater Koekkoek to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Lightning acquire a fairly similar player in Jan Rutta. Rutta has less games played than Koekkoek (85 and 80, respectively), but has been far more effective offensively (Rutta has averaged 0.325 points per game in his career, while Koekkoek has averaged 0.16 points per game) which will come in far more handy IF there’s a needed replacement for Anton Stralman. If we dive even deeper into the advanced analytics, Jan Rutta has a higher corsi for percentage (49.8) than Koekkoek (48.6). Although neither defenseman is exceptional, it’s still a slight improvement.
The emergence of Erik Cernak has proven to be a big factor for the Lightning, as he has played in 24 Lightning games this season, filling in for injuries to Hedman and Stralman, as well as rotating through the cycle that the Lightning have in place, that includes Mikhail Sergachev. Cernak has a Corsi for % of 51.6, which is far greater than both Koekkoek and Rutta, while also being younger than both, with higher upside. He averages 0.29 points per game, while also having a higher +/- (+9) than both Rutta and Koekkoek (both -1).
If The Bolts Don’t Re-Sign Paquette Or Erne
If the Lightning don’t re-sign Cedric Paquette or Adam Erne in order to save up for Anton Stralman, then some potential call-ups include: Alex Barre-Boulet (16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points in 34 games played, 0.97 points per game) and Alexander Volkov (8 goals, 12 assists, 20 points in 33 games, 0.61 points per game).
Barre-Boulet would replace Cedric Paquette, as he is a center, and has proven at the AHL level that he can produce offensively at a high rate.
As for Volkov, he has a similar style of play as Adam Erne, as he plays a bit more physical than most (35 penalty minutes, tied for 4th on Syracuse), while also putting up decent numbers.
Other options include Taylor Raddysh (11 goals, 12 assists, 23 points in 33 games played, 0.70 points per game) and Boris Katchouk (5 goals, 7 assists, 12 points in 33 games played, 0.36 points per game, tied with Volkov with 35 penalty minutes).
One last, more realistic option for the Lightning this off-season is to off-load some not-so-ideal contracts, such as Alex Killorn ($4.45 million, 5 years left), and Tyler Johnson ($5 million, 6 years left). Johnson is younger by one year (28 and 29, respectively), and produces at a higher level.
Johnson this season has 18 goals, 15 assists, 33 points in 43 games played (0.77 points per game) while Killorn has 10 goals, 13 assists, 23 points in 44 games played (0.52 points per game), which makes Johnson’s contract easier to bear for opposing teams. However, Alex Killorn has a higher corsi for percentage (52.9) in his career then Johnson (51.2), which can also make Killorn very attractive for many teams.
The puck is in your arena, Julien BriseBois. It’s all up to you. I’m looking forward to seeing what decisions you make this off-season.
stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals