First thing’s first, it all starts with Brayden Point’s new contract.
Even if it’s not the first domino to fall, this will be the most important piece of business BriseBois attends to this season. Point continued his ascent to star status this season, tallying career highs in goals (41), assists (51), and points (92). On top of that, he led the league with 20 power play goals. Naturally, he’s due for a hefty raise since he’s about to be a restricted free agent. So how much is he worth?
Taking a look at his numbers and the overall impact he’s had, we can probably expect him to earn a contract with a cap hit of at least $8 million a year. He’s become a member of this team’s core, the type of player you build around. The Lightning will make the cap room for him. To those who might be worrying about an offer sheet since he’s a restricted free agent, the player has to be willing to sign that offer sheet. It doesn’t matter if a different team throws a thousand offer sheets in Point’s direction. If he doesn’t sign it, it becomes a moot point. As for the term, an eight-year deal is a strong possibility, but perhaps we see him sign a five-year deal like Auston Matthews did with the Maple Leafs.
The Lightning’s cap space and other RFA’s.
Per CapFriendly, the Lightning enter 2019-20 with $6.376 million in salary cap space. That’s with the roster the way it is right now, without having made any roster moves and operating under the assumption their unrestricted free agents won’t return. This also accounts for the extensions signed by Nikita Kucherov, Ryan McDonagh, and Yanni Gourde last summer with pay raises that kick in next season.
As for other restricted free agents, Cedric Paqeutte, Adam Erne, and Danick Martel all fall into that category and they all have arbitration rights. Seeing as how Martel didn’t see a lot of action, he’ll probably be brought back on a cap hit very similar to the $715,000 hit he carried this season. He could prove to be a valuable player with more ice time, especially with the Lightning needing younger guys with cheaper cap hits.
While Erne largely stayed healthy this year, he was also a healthy scratch at times simply due to the team’s logjam at forward. He might get a slight raise from his $800,000 cap hit. However, if the team doesn’t tender a qualifying offer, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The question is whether or not the Lightning think he’s reached his ceiling in a Bolts uniform.
As for Paquette, he’s coming off a career-best 13 goals and has proven to be a valuable fourth line center who provides plenty of grit and physicality. Coming off a $1 million cap hit, he could get a deal in which his salary nearly doubles. His return next season could be 50-50.
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