Tyler Johnson clears waivers, Lightning salary cap challenges continue

By putting Tyler Johnson on waivers on Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning hoped to circumvent his no-trade clause and get rid of his $5 million cap hit. That didn’t work, as Johnson cleared waivers on Saturday.

Back to the drawing board for the cap-challenged Lightning.

Tyler Johnson clears waivers, so Lightning must find other salary cap solutions

TSN’s Darren Dreger ranks among those who report that other NHL teams want the Lightning to give up something in return for taking on Johnson’s $5M cap hit.

They need a “sweetener,” so to speak, such as a pick or a prospect. Maybe they need to retain salary, or both.

Johnson, 30, carries that $5M cap hit through 2023-24. While Johnson can still contribute to a team, that AAV just isn’t the easiest to stomach. Especially if you’re loaded like the Lightning, who need to settle things with potentially expensive RFAs Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev (with Erik Cernak also needing a new contract).

Again, Johnson boasts a no-trade clause, and he’s far from alone in having either an NTC or NMC. From key players like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman, to depth guys like Braydon Coburn, this Lightning roster is brimming with such clauses.

Could Lightning still trade Johnson, or someone else?

Perhaps there’s still a chance to trade Johnson. If nothing else, his salary structure makes that feasible.

His actual salary is $3.75M in 2020-21 versus that $5M cap hit. While that salary spikes to $5.5M in 2021-22, it slips to $3.75M in 2022-23, and then up to $4.75M in 2023-24. Such numbers might make sense to a team wanting to get to the salary cap floor without paying full price.

It sounds like the Lightning might need to eat a portion of that salary to get a deal done, though. And considering the “all business” move of putting Tyler Johnson on waivers, it might be tougher getting the forward on board for certain moves.

Of course, there are other possibilities for moves. Some more realistic than trading Steven Stamkos, but who really knows? Either way, it looks like other NHL teams won’t make it so easy for the Lightning.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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