TAMPA — One of these things is not like the others.
Take a look at the NHL’s top goal scorers and their annual average value, according to capfriendly.com. One of these contracts doesn’t belong:
Alex Ovechkin ($9.538 million)
Brayden Point ($919,167)
John Tavares ($11 million)
Jeff Skinner ($5.725 million)
Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75 million)
Connor McDavid ($12.5 million)
Patrick Kane ($10.5 million)
Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57 million)
Can you tell which contract is not like the others by the time ... okay, you get the point.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s your answer — Point. His contract is missing the word million. That’s not a typo. Point, 22, doesn’t make that much. He is still playing on his entry-level contract.
It makes him, one of the NHL’s best scorers, also one of its best bargains.
He knows it. Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois knows it. Heck, the whole league knows it. Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau even knew it just weeks into the season, calling Point the best player in the league that no one knows how great he is.
“Come contract time next year,” Boudreau said, “they’ll know.”
What that number looks like and for how long remain uncertain as Point is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason. That number will certainly be much higher than it is now, though.
“I don’t know what I’m going to have to pay Brayden Point,” BriseBois said. “And he’s going to obviously be a priority in the offseason.”
Here’s what else we know:
Don’t expect the Lightning to negotiate a deal with Point before the offseason. BriseBois said he does not see any discussions before the offseason based on the team’s perspective and conversations with Point’s agent, Gerry Johannson.
Another team likely won’t steal him away with an offer sheet. The Lightning can match any offer that another team would make to him because he is a restricted free agent. “I’m not concerned at all about offer sheets,” BriseBois said. “The way it’s set up, there’s no point in making an offer sheet if you’re not going to get the player. And teams match, you’re not going to let go of these good young players that can be good for your team for many, many years to come.”
Point does not have arbitration rights. This is where things can get tricky as William Nylander and Toronto showed earlier this season. Nylander, also 22 and a restricted free agent this past offseason, sat out the first 26 games of the season before he and the Maple Leafs came to agreement minutes before the restricted free agency deadline on Dec. 1. Nikita Kucherov didn’t miss any games but did sit out training camp and preseason when he was in the same situation as a restricted free agent three years ago. He accepted a three-year bridge deal instead. He went on to sign an eight-year extension this past summer. It’s not likely Point reaches the stage to where Nylander got as most don’t, but it is an option for Point’s camp as Nylander showed.
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So, with the Lightning likely not dealing with an offer sheet and a Nylander-like holdout unlikely, the Lightning will likely sign Point to an extension in the offseason. That could come in the form of a bridge deal similar to Kucherov or a long-term deal. As to what a fair deal would be, that remains up in the air as Point continues to tally more and more points.
Point didn’t make the All-Star Game, but he is putting up better numbers this season. He tallied 32 goals and 34 assists last season. This season, he has 30 goals and 35 assists with 33 games to go.
He’s on pace for 108 points.
Compare that to Nylander, who tallied 61 points in each of the previous two seasons. That earned him a six-year contract with an AAV of $10.2 million this season and a $6.962 the next five seasons.
Look to the Lightning’s own for another recent long-term extension. This past November, the Lightning inked Yanni Gourde to a six-year deal with an AAV of $1 million this season and $5.166 million the next five seasons. That extension came after Gourde turned in a 64-point season last year. He didn’t have multiple 60-point seasons like Point. Only one. Gourde, however, had more leverage than Point as he would have become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
If the Lightning signs Point to a long-term deal, BriseBois will have to get extremely creative with the salary cap with Gourde and Kucherov’s deals each increasing their cap hits in the second year. Fortunately for the Lightning, the salary cap is expected to increase.
Enjoy this team now, Lightning fans. This summer, things could get interesting.
Contact Nick Kelly at email@example.com. Follow @_NickKelly.