Lightning rookie center Tyler Johnson's big year got even better Friday.
Johnson, 23 signed a three-year, $10 million contract extension that goes through the 2016-17 season. Johnson, a Calder Trophy finalist for rookie of the year, was set to be a restricted free agent July 1, but the Lightning wasted little time in locking up one of its top young players.
"He had an outstanding first year in the league," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "As the year went on, he started to recognize or sense that 'I could play in this league, and I can be effective.' His confidence grew, and he really asserted himself and played well. He just got better and better as the year went on."
Johnson set a Lightning rookie record with 24 goals and finished third among NHL rookies in points (50) while flourishing on the top line. He carried that momentum into the world championship in Belarus, leading the United States with six goals as the Americans were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Czech Republic on Thursday.
"A great experience," Yzerman said of worlds. "USA had a very talented, young team, and I thought he played extremely well as the tournament went on, got better and better. It's good for his confidence. He stepped up on a talented group of young players and asserted himself on the ice as a go-to player."
Johnson's agent, Mark MacKay, said negotiations were easy because both sides were high on each other. Johnson — unavailable for comment because he was still in Belarus — is "very happy" with the deal, McKay said.
"It's one of those years that he'll definitely remember for a long time," MacKay said. "He's in a good place right now."
The Lightning now has 14 players scheduled to be restricted free agents, including wing Ondrej Palat, another Calder Trophy finalist. Palat's agent, Craig Oster, said both sides are interested in working out a deal but there no serious talks have been held.
Other notable potential restricted free agents include center Alex Killorn, wing J.T. Brown, goalie Anders Lindback and wing Richard Panik. Yzerman has also remained in touch with Steve Bartlett, agent of veteran wing Ryan Callahan, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
HOT TARGET: Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois has been considered one of the league's up-and-coming executives the past few years.
So it comes as little surprise that media reports have BriseBois on the Penguins' list of candidates for their vacant general manager job. Pittsburgh fired Ray Shero last week.
Yzerman declined to confirm whether any organization has requested permission to speak to BriseBois. But he said it's "only a matter of time" before BriseBois, 37 and his right-hand man since 2010, gets an opportunity and he would be an "outstanding" general manager.
"He's got tremendous experience at all facets and responsibilities of a general manager," Yzerman said. "He's going to have a long and outstanding career as a GM."
Follow all the action on and off the ice
Subscribe to our free Lightning Strikes newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.