The Tampa Bay Lightning were just one win away from making it back to the Stanley Cup Final, but a shutout loss on home ice prevented them from advancing to the next round.
Making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final shouldn’t be classified as a terrible year for the Bolts, especially because they didn’t even make it to the playoffs last season. But even though they had a strong year, there’s a chance that at least one significant change could be on the way.
With Nikita Kucherov entering the final year of his contract, there will likely be some personal changes on the horizon. Kucherov is slated to earn $4.76 million next season and there’s a chance that he could make more than double that amount whenever he signs his new extension.
Brayden Point is in a similar situation. The 22-year-old is entering the final year of his entry-level contract and he’s also expected to get a significant raise. Keep in mind, the Lightning are already paying Steven Stamkos $8.5 million per season, so they’ll be committing quite a bit of money to the center ice position.
That’s where Tyler Johnson comes in. Assuming he sticks at center, Johnson will be behind Stamkos and Point on the depth chart. He earns $5 million per season over the next six seasons and his no-movement clause officially kicks in on July 1st. If GM Steve Yzerman is thinking about moving him, this is the time.
The 27-year-old is coming off a solid 21-goal and 50-point season and the fact that the Lightning are one of the few teams with strong depth down the middle (not many teams have a one-two punch of Stamkos and Point) means that there will be a market for him.
The Lightning also parted ways with their first-round draft pick in 2018 and their second-round pick in 2019 in the trade that saw them land McDonagh and Miller from the Rangers. Parting ways with an established player could also help them recuperate some of those assets.
The emergence of Anthony Cirelli gives the Bolts another young center capable of filling in on the third or fourth line heading into 2018-19.
It should be an interesting off-season in Tampa. They don’t have to overhaul their roster by any stretch, but they definitely need to make a few tweaks so that they can get over the hump. Trading Johnson doesn’t necessarily make them better, but it would allow them to have a bit more financial flexibility.