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Lightning and their star are not close to contract, but all signs Point to a bridge deal

Tampa Bay has taken the bridge-deal route with its RFAs before, and it appears that's what they're set to do again with Brayden Point. And while no agreement has been reached yet, the two sides are "working hard trying to get something figured out," according to Point's agent.

Things can change with one conversation, but as it stands right now, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brayden Point do not have a contract. Not only do they not have a contract, they’re not even close to having one. “We haven’t made any progress,” said Point’s agent Gerry Johannson, “but we’re working hard trying to get something figured out. We’re having dialogue.”

There’s a tendency to paint one side as bad and another good in these kinds of situations, but that’s not the case here. Negotiations have been cordial, but they haven’t been substantive enough, nor have they yielded any real progress. But one thing is certain. Point and Johannson did not look at Mitch Marner’s six-year, $65.4 million deal and see dollar signs flash before their eyes. To use Marner’s contract as a comparable would be futile for a couple of reasons. First, the Lightning don’t have that kind of cap space. But more importantly, it’s not how they and GM Julien BriseBois are willing to do business.

It’s generally accepted that even the best players in Tampa take bridge deals. Nikita Kucherov did it. So did Andrei Vasilevskiy. Victor Hedman didn’t exactly take a bridge deal because it was a five-year pact, but it was for a cap hit of only $4 million a year. BriseBois has made it clear that he’s not concerned with industry trends or what other players for other teams are receiving. He has a salary cap to manage and that’s what he’s going to do.

That’s why everything points to a bridge deal for Point, despite establishing himself as one of the best two-way centers in the league and the No. 1 center on the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy. There have been reports that Point has been offered $5.7 million per year on a three-year deal. When Kucherov signed his three-year bridge deal in 2015, the annual average value of the deal was $4.8 million, which comes to $5.2 million in 2019 when adjusted for inflation. Vasilevskiy signed his two-year deal worth $3.5 million per season in 2016 – a deal that took effect a year later – which computes to $3.74 million in 2019 funds.

So you can see how the Lightning might regard an offer others would see as ridiculously low as actually being reasonable. And it is, depending on the prism through which it is viewed. Now it’s up to the Lightning to convince Point that if he waits to get his money, either as an unrestricted free agent or in arbitration, he will be richly rewarded. It’s a gamble on both sides of the equation, but one both the Lightning and Point seem willing to take.

Let’s say Point signs a three-year deal. That would take him to one year prior to unrestricted free agency with the luxury of being able to take the Lightning to arbitration during that gap year. Should Point continue to play at the level he has, the comparisons to the likes of Marner and Auston Matthews will place Point right in that same bracket, perhaps even higher. Point has just one year to go before being arbitration-eligible, so why not sign a one-year deal and move the process up by a couple of years? Well, because the Lightning have zero interest in doing that.

The Lightning seem to want their cake and eat it, too. (Never really understood the logic behind that particular cliché, but…) And that’s because they know Point is in a position where his only real leverage is to withhold his services or sign an offer sheet, the latter of which is probably not on the horizon. They know they have a fairly large Stanley Cup window and will be a serious contender in the NHL for years to come. There are also tax considerations, given the fact that the state of Florida has no income tax and a state retail tax of just six percent.

With training camp moving along and rapidly approaching its second week, it’s natural for Lightning fans to be getting a little antsy about all of this. But it will get done with Point and chances are he’ll be in a Lightning uniform when they open their season with a home-and-home series against the Florida Panthers in early October.

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