TAMPA — There’s one player remaining on the Lightning’s checklist to sign before camp opens next month.
Forward Ross Colton has yet to sign his qualifying offer and instead has elected arbitration to decide his salary for the coming season. Colton, who made $700,000 this past season, is one of 17 NHL players who chose to file for arbitration.
The players’ association announced Thursday that Colton’s hearing will be on Aug. 16. But his representatives and the Lightning can continue to negotiate in the meantime. The sides can either complete a contract for the amount determined by the arbitrator or walk away, with Colton becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Colton, 24, is the last restricted free agent who has yet to sign a deal with the Lightning. He was one of seven up-and-coming players Tampa Bay made a qualifying offers to before the start of free agency.
Colton made a big impression on coaches and the front office this past season en route to the Stanley Cup, where he scored the game-winning goal against the Canadiens in Game 5 of the final.
He acclimated quickly to the NHL, with nine goals and three assists in 30 regular-season games and another six points (four goals and two assists) in the postseason. In his NHL debut on Feb. 24, he opened the scoring against the Hurricanes in a 3-0 Lightning win.
Colton found a consistent role on the Lightning’s fourth line alongside Mathieu Joseph and Pat Maroon. He started the postseason on the third line in the absence of injured Barclay Goodrow before returning to the fourth line to play with Maroon and Tyler Johnson.
The Lightning are set to open the 2021-22 season Oct. 12 against the Penguins.
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