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Lightning Round: Ross Colton contract discussions continue as player files for arbitration

What’s Colton going to make?

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JULY 07: Ross Colton #79 and Steven Stamkos #91of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate in the locker room after their 1-0 victory in Game Five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final to win the series four games to one against the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on July 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Sean Day to a one-year, two-way contract on Sunday. The contract will see Day earn $750k in the NHL and $100k in the AHL, with $125k guaranteed. The left-shooting Day played 29 games for the Syracuse Crunch in 2021, scoring 15 points in the pandemic year.

Following that signing the Lightning are left with only one player without a contract, Ross Colton. This isn’t a surprise or error by the team at all, they are also not at a risk of going over the cap. Colton owned arbitration rights after playing three professional seasons after his ELC began. The process for players filing for arbitration opened yesterday so it was well within his rights to go down it just in case.

Alan wrote about arbitration a few years back and explained why it’s nothing to be worried about. [Raw Charge]

“Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported today that, as expected, two-thirds of the Tampa Lightning’s triplets filed for arbitration ahead of today’s 5PM deadline. This was the logical next step in negotiations for both Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. As restricted free agents, this is the normal process and doesn’t immediately change anything in their discussions with the front office. But it does establish a timetable for when we can expect to see movement.”

Colton’s agent and Julien BriseBois are still working on a contract that will be good for both the player and the team, and they can settle on a contract anytime before the judge makes their ruling on a salary in arbitration. Having the judge decide is basically a last resort if the player doesn’t want to sign their qualifying offer — which Colton shouldn’t because it’s only a shade over the minimum and he’s worth more than that.

How much more? Well, the Lightning have $1.1 million in available cap space on a 22-man roster (I had ABB there, but he, Raddysh, and Katchouk all make the same). That number can go up to $1.8 million if the team needs to drop their 13th forward (Gemel Smith) to the Crunch.

Personally, I expect Colton to make between $1 million and $1.3 million. That’s where his bottom-six comparables are at his age. The closest player I could find that would match Colton’s points and rookie season timeline is Pierre Engvall in Toronto. He made his NHL debut at 24, and scored 14 points in 35 games before getting a two-year, $1.25 million contract. Colton scored 12 points in 30 games. Engvall didn’t get that number in arbitration, the Leafs actually re-signed him mid-season, so the Lightning might be able to get that number down a bit. I don’t expect it to go higher.

I’m going to expand on this in a feature this week, but Engvall’s second NHL season is a cautionary tale on what we can expect from Colton going into his sophomore season, especially when the shoes to fill are Yanni Gourde’s.