Changes are coming for the Lightning and it appears Tyler Johnson could be among them. The team needs to create salary cap space this offseason, which usually means trading players for draft picks.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that Johnson has given the organization a list of teams it can work with on a trade. The 30-year-old forward, has a full no-trade clause in his contract, granting him approval over any potential trade partner.
Trading Johnson would give the Lightning $5 million in cap space. The team currently has $5.3 million available and only 15 players under contract (a full roster is 23).
The Lightning do not have a history of player trades during the draft, as compared to trading picks, but they moved forward J.T. Miller to create cap space last year.
The team did not have a first-round pick when the draft opened Tuesday. They have eight on the second day — one in each of the second and seventh rounds as well as two in the third, fourth and sixth.
The Lightning don’t have to make a move around the draft; it’s just a convenient time to do so.
General manager Julien BriseBois said the sooner the better, before their opportunities dwindle. But the team likely won’t be making a big free-agent signing when the market opens Friday, and doesn’t need the cap space immediately.
Johnson has been on most trade bait lists, since he no longer is a natural fit in the Lightning lineup. He is a small, skilled forward. But he doesn’t have the talent of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point or Steven Stamkos, and doesn’t bring the physical and defensive presence of Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat or Alex Killorn.
When there were injuries, Johnson plugged holes in the Lightning’s top six this season, including a spot on the second line with Cirelli and Killorn through the playoffs.
Miller was in a similar position with the Lightning last season. Once he was traded to Vancouver, where he had a set spot in the top six instead of moving throughout the lineup, Miller put up career numbers.
Johnson could bring skill and experience to another team, especially now that he’s won the Stanley Cup. In return, the Lightning could get space to sign their restricted free agents (Cirelli, as well as defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak) and draft picks to build up the prospect pool.
Killorn is another player who could be on the trading block. The 31-year-old winger has three years left on his contract at $4.45 million.
Of the Lightning players carrying a cap hit of more than $4 million, he is the only one whose no-trade clause transitions from full to modified this offseason. When the league calendar flips Friday, Killorn will submit a list of 16 teams he cannot be traded to. The other 14 teams will be possibilities.
Killorn stepped into a leadership role this year and had a career season on the ice, passing 20 goals for the first time. That makes him someone the Lightning would like to keep around — while also making his trade potential more attractive.