Lightning forwards Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson have filed for arbitration

According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, restricted free agents Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson have file for arbitration.

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.

Filing for arbitration means that if the Lightning and each player do not agree to a contract extension, they will have a hearing with a neutral party to determine a fair contract for the next one or two seasons. In this case, that seems an extremely unlikely outcome as teams rarely ever go through the full arbitration process and both Palat and Johnson are key parts of the team who seem to be in position to receive long term extensions.

What the filing really does is provide some deadlines. While we don’t know the official date of each player’s hearing yet, the range of dates for hearings this year is between July 20th and August 4th. Last summer, Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov were the two primary RFAs for the Lightning, other than Nikita Kucherov, and both filed for arbitration. Killorn’s hearing was set for July 20th and Namestnikov’s for July 29th. Kucherov did not have enough years of professional service to be eligible for arbitration.

Steve Yzerman and the Lightning front office took full advantage of their negotiating time in both cases. Killorn signed on July 17th and Namestnikov on July 27th. If the team follows the same pattern, the hearing dates for Palat and Johnson should give us a good idea of when to expect to see contracts finalized. Based on last year, the fanbase should enter full on contract-watch status about 3-4 days ahead of the hearing date.

Currently, the Lightning have about $12 million in cap space. That includes their signing of Jake Dotchin earlier today to a two year extension at just over 800k per season. That math works out just about perfectly with GeoFitz4’s projections here that each player would get between $5.5 million and $6 million per year on a long term deal. Using Matt Cane’s salary projection model, which has been exceptionally accurate this summer, Palat would land at $6 million and Johnson at $5.6 million.

As we head into the long slow drag of the NHL summer, the Lightning’s roster is nearly complete. Contracts for Palat and Johnson are the only two remaining major items to complete. So keep an eye out for those arbitration hearing dates because that will be the next important indicator of when we can expect the contracts to be signed.