Word started to filter out this morning that the Tampa Bay Lightning were getting close to a deal with Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Brayden Point. It’s been a long summer made even longer by the drawn-out negotiations we’ve seen with not just Point, but with almost every other big RFA. But it’s all over as he has signed a three-year bridge deal with a cap hit of $6.75 million.
Lightning have re-signed Brayden Point to a three-year deal paying $6.75 M AAV. The Lightning came up more than a million a year from their last offer.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 23, 2019
My first impression is that the Lightning have done well with this deal. For most of the summer, my speculation on a three year deal was that it would cost between $7 and $7.5 million. Evolving-Hockey.com’s salary projection for a three-year contract was just over $7.1 million. Being a three-year contract, the deal will also end with Point still being an RFA and in line for an even bigger salary.
The Lightning and general manager Julien BriseBois have done a lot of maneuvering with the cap this summer. It started with the trade of J.T. Miller around the NHL Entry Draft to clear his salary from the books. Later in the summer, the Lightning traded Ryan Callahan for cap reasons. While Callahan’s situation wasn’t too bad since he was expected to be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), the Lightning gave themselves more flexibility by trading him. The Lightning further saved money by moving Adam Erne to the Detroit Red Wings in a trade.
Now with this three-year contract secured, the Lightning have locked in an important variable for the coming salary cap issues. A big raise to Andrei Vasilevskiy kicks in next season. Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Anthony Cirelli, and Mathieu Joseph will also be RFAs next summer and will be in line for some healthy raises. Even with Point signing a bridge deal, there is still going to be a crunch next summer that will require BriseBois to once again get creative.
The Lightning will also have more flexibility and room to sign Point to an even bigger contract when he becomes an RFA again. By that time, Ondrej Palat will be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA). Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn will all have modified No Trade Clauses that will allow for them to be traded if necessary (and if they haven’t been moved by then). There will also be the expansion draft for Seattle that will take a player off the roster. The Lightning will also only be two years from Steven Stamkos being a UFA again.
Back to the 2019-20 season though, the Lightning have given themselves some space to work. Once the opening night roster has been set, the team should have just over $1.7 million in cap space. BriseBois indicated previously after the Callahan trade that the team would like to have around $1 million for potential performance bonuses from players like Sergachev and Cirelli. This cap space gives the team plenty of flexibility in recalling players for injury replacement. It also gives the potential for adding at the deadline if the front office deems that to be necessary.
All-in-all, I give the Lightning an A on this deal. It’s a good, solid contract that should work out well for both sides. Point has given himself some financial stability. The Lightning have gotten a top-20 in the NHL player for a reasonable contract for the next three seasons. It took longer than we all wanted, but it feels good to see it finally done and over the finish line.
Now Point can get into game shape with a couple preseason games and hit the ground running come October 3rd and opening night against the Florida Panthers.
Lets! Go! Bolts!