Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat file for arbitration
As expected, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Jake Dotchin Wednesday to a bargain, two-year deal worth $812,500 annually.
That was the easy part.
The more challenging next step for Tampa Bay is coming to terms with its big name restricted free agents Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Both Johnson and Palat filed for arbitration by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline.
No need to set off any alarms. This move was expected. Johnson and Palat will each have a scheduled arbitration hearing for late July/early August where both their camps and the Lightning propose a contract for next season and argue their case, with an independent arbitrator ruling.
Keep in mind, the Lightning and Palat/Johnson can continue to negotiate until the hearings. It wouldn't be surprising if both Johnson and Palat sign long-term deals before this ever goes to arbitration, like Alex Killorn did last July. It doesn't sound like the parties are far apart. The Lightning has the money - $13.6 million in cap space - and wants to bring both Johnson and Palat back.
But, to this point, neither side has had a pressure point in negotiations, a deadline. And now they do. My best guess is Johnson nets a deal in the $5 million annual average range, Palat possibly slightly less. Both are coming off identical three-year, $10 million bridge deals.
GM Steve Yzerman said Saturday a reason he didn't want to give up much term on free agent deals Saturday was because of looming long-term deals with his own players, like Johnson and Palat. Nikita Kucherov will need a new deal in two years, Andrei Vasilevskiy soon after.
"It's hard to make long-term commitments," Yzerman said Saturday. "We can only do that with so many players. We've done that with a few of our guys. And we're looking at contracts for Palat and Johnson, and not too far away is (Nikita Kucherov) and after him is (goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy). So you have to keep those things in mind. In the interim we needed some players on shorter-term contracts and that was the direction we went here.".