TAMPA — The Lightning would rather possess talent than chase it, particularly at premium positions. And they might have the finest collection of premium talent in the NHL.
So the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champions aren’t taking chances when it comes to holding on to it.
Just as they did with captain Steven Stamkos, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, defenseman Victor Hedman and right wing Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning locked up top-line center Brayden Point on Wednesday with a long-term extension.
The NHL’s goals leader in each of the past two postseasons, Point, 25, agreed to an eight-season, $76 million extension that begins in 2022-23 and carries an average annual value of $9.5 million.
“He’s in the prime of his career. He’s a dedicated professional. He’s a guy that drives play. he’s an elite player at a premium position,” general manager Julien BriseBois said. “When you don’t have a first-line center, you’re chasing a first-line center, just like when you don’t have a strong No. 1 goalie, you’re chasing a strong No. 1 goalie.
“When you don’t have ‘the,’ you’re chasing ‘the.’ "
So while the rest of the league scrambled to sign available players on the first day of free agency, the Lightning secured one of the most impactful players in recent playoff history.
Point, who could have been a restricted free agent after next season, has scored more goals, 36, over the past four postseasons than any other player in the league.
“The cost certainty is nice,” BriseBois said, “but what’s really appealing and exciting to me is knowing that Brayden Point is going to be on our team for the next nine years and he’s only 25 years old right now.”
Point led the Lightning in goals (23) and points (48) this year and tied for the team lead with six winners. He was even bigger for the Lightning in the postseason, scoring a playoff-high 14 goals during the run to the Stanley Cup, matching his postseason numbers from the 2020 championship season.
Point’s nine-game goal streak this year was the second-longest in NHL playoff history.
“I’m very excited to stay in Tampa for another nine years,” Point said in a statement. “I want to thank the entire Lightning organization for this and say thanks to our fans. Since being drafted by Tampa (in 2014), I’ve always felt like Tampa has been home, and the fans have played a huge role in making my time in Tampa so wonderful.”
His production overshadows the grittiness in his game. He gets to the high-scoring areas, fights for position and works well in small spaces.
Point’s winning goal against Florida in the opening game of this year’s playoffs, his second of two in the game, was one of the biggest moments of the postseason, coach Jon Cooper said. It was reminiscent of his winner in the fifth overtime of the Tampa Bay’s opening-game victory over Columbus in the 2020 postseason.
The Lightning hope there will be plenty more to come.
“We’ve locked up all of the big impact guys … so for the next three years, all the premium positions are pretty much filled right now on our team, filled with really good players that are still in their prime,” BriseBois said. That’s why I believe there’s a lot of reasons to believe we can continue to compete for the Stanley Cup over the next few years here.”
Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.
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