The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed Restricted Free Agent Tyler Johnson to a seven year, $35 million contract. The contract will keep Johnson in Tampa through the 2022-2023 season and includes a ten team no trade list for the final three years of the contract. With Johnson signed long term, the team has only to re-sign Ondrej Palat to complete a busy summer of free agency.
As part of #tblightning/Tyler Johnson deal, there is a no trade clause from 2018-21. Last 3 years of deal modified NT, 20 team trade list— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) July 11, 2017
Johnson has been a fixture in Tampa since the 13-14 season. He has consistently anchored the second line and had a positive impact on the ice. His best season came in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-2015 when he put up 72 points as part of the vaunted triplet line with Palat and Nikita Kucherov. He has been a favorite of head coach Jon Cooper since his days in the AHL.
Johnson’s rise to being one of the top 60 centers in the NHL is a story of determination and perseverance. He was undrafted despite putting up impressive scoring numbers in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs. The Lightning signed him to an ELC and he’s made the organization look smart for doing so.
The Lightning have earned a reputation for identifying smaller skilled forwards with NHL potential and Johnson is one of the prime examples of that. At 5’8”, he is one of the best case studies in why teams should stop overvaluing physical traits like height and weight when drafting.
Johnson has been a high level performer in the NHL. As his player card by from hockeyviz.com shows, he scores at a high rate and has a positive impact on both shots and goals when he is on the ice.
Johnson will turn 27 before the end of the month, meaning this contract will take him through his age 33 season in the NHL. That’s a bit of a gamble as NHL forwards tend to start to decline in the late twenties and early thirties. Johnson has also struggled with injury in the last two seasons, playing just 69 and 66 games. But when healthy, he’s been an impact player.
Last summer, the Lightning signed Alex Killorn to a seven-year extension for $4.45 million. Johnson gets the same term but a slight raise compared to that contract. The Average Annual Value (AAV) comes in just a bit below Matt Cane’s projection of $5.6M, which is reasonable considering the extra year or two of term.
If Johnson is able to stay healthy and perform at this rate for the bulk of the contract, this will be a great deal. But if he continues to suffer with injury and sees a decline in the last three years of the deal, it puts the Lightning at risk of having another questionable contract on the books.
With both Killorn and Johnson locked up for 7 years, it stands to reason that the Lightning will look to sign Palat to a similar length deal. Cane’s model projects Palat to come in at almost exactly $6M. Given that Yzerman seems to have been able to get a slight discount on most re-signings (aside from Killorn), it seems something in the range of $5.5M might be a good guess.
Johnson has been a key part of the Lightning’s success in recent years and he’s now locked up long term as part of the core. He’s shown the ability to justify the faith the team has shown in him with this contract. Lightning fans will hope the injury issues are behind him and he has a long healthy successful career anchoring the team down the middle along with Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.