The Tampa Bay Lightning May Be In A Predicament, And They Are Not Alone
The upcoming free agents in the National Hockey League are very high-profile players, like Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner, Tampa Bay Ligtning’s Brayden Point and Vegas Golden Knights’ Mark Stone. Well, that was until Stone signed a massive deal with Vegas. That deal seems to be the benchmark for most of, if not all, upcoming free agents. Especially Marner.
The Stone deal was an eight-year extension worth $76 million USD ($9.5 million per year). Stone, being a winger, compares well to Marner and because of his deal (along with the William Nylander deal and Marner’s success thus far), Marner could earn just about the same pay-day, if not more. That’s tough news for the Leafs to swallow, as they’re barely able to hold their core players together even with the expanding cap room. Now you’re probably wondering how this correlates to the Lightning. Well, here’s how.
Point has turned into a major piece of the Lightning’s forward core, growing incredible chemistry with Nikita Kucherov, and allows the Tampa to have top talent up and down their lineup. He can move up to the first line of 5 on 5 hockey over Steven Stamkos, or get moved to the second line. Either way, he is almost always with Kucherov and it establishes two scoring lines.
With Point being a center, along with the versatility of playing wing if needed, his potential earnings are heightened. Point currently has 37 goals and 45 assists, good enough for 82 points in 67 games with the Lightning this season. He finished the season prior with 32 goals and 34 assists, good for 66 points in 82 games. As for his possession metrics, he has a Corsi For % of 52.1 this season, and 51.9 last year. As for Fenwick For %, he has a 52.4 this season, and 51.4 last season. His career giveaway to takeaway ratio is 61-112 (he has nearly double the takeaways than giveaways, which is remarkable).
Point And Marner Comparisons
Now let’s look at Marner. He has scored 24 goals and 58 assists for 82 points in 68 games for the Leafs this season. It’s easy to say that Marner and Point are comparable, as they have both produced at almost exactly the same level. However, Point scores more goals and he is a center, not a winger. Last season, Marner had 22 goals and 47 assists, good for 69 points. Yet again that is near identical to Point. His CF% this season is 50.7 and last season he finished at 52.9. His FF% this season is at 49.4 and he finished last season at 51.0. His career giveaway to takeaway ratio is 164-218 (he has 54 more takeaways than giveaways, which is also great). It’s safe to say that these two players are identical, with Point being a sniper and Marner a playmaker. It’s no secret Point’s agent will be focusing on the deal Marner gets, and vice versa.
Now for Mark Stone. As stated earlier, he is going to be making $9.5 million USD per season for eight years. Stone is older than both Point and Marner, meaning the term will be relatively the same. Marner and Point will be signed through to their prime years, while Stone is currently in his prime years. To me, that means that they both could earn more than Stone right away.
Statistically this season, Stone has 29 goals and 37 assists, good for 66 points in 65 games. He isn’t producing at as high a level as Marner or Point, but he also played for the Ottawa Senators for the brunt of the season, and both the Maple Leafs and Lightning have more talent than the Senators. With the Knights so far, Stone has four points in six games.
Last season in Ottawa, Stone recorded 20 goals and 42 assists, good for 62 points in 58 games. It’s safe to say that if he played the full year, he could’ve had close to 90 points, if not more. Stone’s CF% this year is at 53.0 (52.6 with Ottawa, 57.8 with Vegas), and last season he finished at 52.0. As for FF%, he is currently at 53.8 (53.1 with Ottawa, 61.4 in Vegas), and finished last season at 51.3. His career giveaway to takeaway ratio is 263-489 (226 more takeaways than giveaways, which is spectacular).
When looking at each players point production, possession metrics, and giveaway to takeaway ratio, it’s very easy to compare them. They all produce at relatively the same level, although Stone was playing alongside lesser talent almost all year. Every one of them are very smart with the puck and don’t turn it over often. Stone set the benchmark for the youngsters, so now the puck is in Maple Leafs general manager’s Kyle Dubas and Lightning general manager’s Julien BriseBois zones. But before we jump to conclusions, let’s look at the other contracts on the Bolts roster.
The Lightning And All Their Free Agents
Kucherov will be making $9.5 million USD per year at the start of next season, due to the extension he signed. He currently has 110 points in 69 games, which is a franchise record for most points in a single season. Stamkos, who has been swapping between the first and second line with Point, is currently making $8.5 million USD per year. With the cap rising as well, he most likely will earn more than Stamkos. But Kucherov’s deal is recent and he is producing at a ridiculous rate, and it would not make sense for Point to be making more than Kucherov.
This was the bar set by former Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who is still pulling some strings within the organization. The Lightning have three other forwards and four defencemen set to hit free agency (either restricted or not) in Adam Erne, Cedric Paquette, Danick Martel, Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, Dan Girardi and Jan Rutta.
They have several cheap options to replace some of those names for next season in forwards Alex Barre-Boulet, Boris Katchouk, and Alexander Volkov, along with defencemen Cal Foote, Dominik Masin, and Erik Cernak, who is already on the NHL squad. Plus, the Lightning could very well look to move Ryan Callahan (who has mainly been a scratch this season) and potentially Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn.
If those things happen, then Brayden Point could very well get offered $9-9.25 million USD per season. If he does get signed to that deal, that’s a loss for Marner’s potential earnings, as again, they’re very similar players. Marner could still make up to $10 million per season, but not much more than that if Point signs a “cheap” deal.
All stats via hockey-reference
All contract info via capfriendly
Featured Photo Image Credit: Nikos Michals