One of the Julien Breisbois’ first big challenges as the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning will be taking care of Brayden Point. Point is in the last year of his entry level contract and needs a new deal. Nothing has to be done right away, but eventually discussions with Point’s agent will heat up. It has already been reported that Point and the Lightning won’t be talking an extension during the season, but that he is open to either a long-term deal or a bridge contract.
Over the last four or five seasons, there have been a lot of players that have been similar to William Nylander and Brayden Point coming off of their entry level contracts. These are young forwards generally 21-23 years of age that have already established themselves in the NHL for at least a couple of seasons with scoring rates in the 60-point range. This has given us a large number of comparable players and contracts, many of which have been examined over and over during the Nylander stalemate. Many were even comparables back when Nikita Kucherov was going through the same situation before signing a bridge contract.
Players like Mark Scheifele, Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Aleksander Barkov, Bo Horvat are all centers that have signed the past few seasons in the $5.5 million to $6.5 million range. Then there were also played like Johnny Gaudreau, David Pastrnak, Dylan Larkin, Filip Forsberg, Nikolaj Ehlers, Brandon Saad, and Jonathan Huberdeau as wingers that have signed in a similar range of salary cap hits.
But with William Nylander signing for just under $7 million, he’s helped to reset the market for such players a little bit. A few had broken through the market like Vladimir Tarasenko signing for $7.5 million and Leon Draisaitl signing for $8.5 million. Tarasenko though had scored 37 goals and 73 points the year before signing his big extension and has continued to produce in that area. Draisaitl likewise had scored 29 goals and 77 points the season prior to his deal.
All of this adds together to the potential that a long-term contract for Brayden Point could simply be too expensive for the Lightning to handle at this time. I understand that at this point a lot of you are probably yelling at the monitor “TRADE KILLORN!” or “TRADE JOHNSON!” or “TRADE EVERYONE!” But then I have to ask you this question; is the team better off with just Point or with Point plus whoever you want to trade? I think pretty much universally the answer is that the team is better with Point plus whoever you want to trade to make room.
The problem also lies in the No Trade Clauses that the Lightning have given to many of the players that you’re probably yelling at the screen right now. Ryan Callahan has a modified-no trade clause and could be traded. J.T. Miller likewise has a modified no trade clause. On the other hand, Tyler Johnson can’t be traded until after 2020-21 and Alex Killorn can’t be traded until after 2019-20. Your idea of getting rid of one of those players to make room doesn’t really help the team in 2019-20 to make room for Point on a long-term deal.
It doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. But Nylander’s new contract will have to serve as a starting point for Point in any long-term contract talks. Especially if he continues to score as he has through the first quarter of the season. Nylander had two straight 61 point seasons with 22 and 20 goals. Point has started with 40 and 66 point seasons with 18 and 32 goals. His goal scoring pace of this season is unlikely to continue due to his unsustainably high shooting percentage, but he’s still looking like he’s on his way to an 80 point season.
If you’re Point and you want to sign for six to eight years, it’d be hard to accept taking less than Nylander with this kind of production. It’s also given him more ammunition to push more towards a Leon Draisaitl type deal at $8.5 million because of his better goal scoring and the premium of being a center as opposed to Nylander as a winger.
The Lightning do have an advantage of being located where there is no state income tax. That makes a contract worth more for Point than it would in a location like Toronto or New York or California.
If somehow the Lightning are able to make the numbers work on a long-term deal, I would expect it to fall somewhere in the $7.5 million to $8.5 million range. That high cap hit though makes it just as likely that the team could be more interested in a three-year bridge contract similar to what Kucherov took. A bridge contract would likely be more than what Kucherov received and could be something like a three-year $6 million contract. If that’s what it takes to get a bridge deal done, then the Lightning will have to think long and hard of if taking the longer term deal is safer.
There is no doubt that if Point continues his trajectory, his next contract after a bridge deal could be a Kucherov type deal at $9.5 million. But, some of the Lightning’s other contract obligations will have come off the books while hopefully some other young players will be reaching the NHL and producing at lower cap hits to fill in the gaps.
This is going to be a big challenge for Briesbois when he gets to negotiating the deal. He is also going to have to navigate the fact that Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mikhail Sergachev will also be up for new, much larger contracts a year later. It’s still early and we have a long ways to go to the end of the season when talks will heat up and we can find out just where his next contract ends up going.