Johnson Signing Paves the Way for Ondrej Palat

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed forward Tyler Johnson to a seven-year contract worth $35 million late Monday and now the discussion turns to Ondrej Palat and what comes next.

Naturally, signing Johnson is a good thing for the Lightning.

Last week, both Johnson and Palat filed for salary arbitration. Tampa is relatively ready for such a situation, with general manager Steve Yzerman shoring up ample salary cap space to contend with signing two top players.

The Johnson signing should set the metric for what Palat will get and that’s notable, as the Lightning have about $8.6 million available in cap space. Tampa can sign Nikita Kucherov to a contract extension in July of next year, which establishes the necessary money for Palat.

Yzerman traded forward Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens in June for a prospect defenceman, plus he inked Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi for a combined $5 million in cap space.

Johnson was given a healthy raise from his previous contract, which amounted to just over $3 million a season – give or take.

“I’m very excited to be staying in Tampa and staying with this organization,” Johnson said. “This is the place I wanted to be and [Yzerman] said he wanted me back. So, I knew we were going to get a deal done. It was a little tough to wait, but I’m glad that we got this done and I’m excited to get back in the room and on the ice with my teammates so we can win a Stanley Cup for [owner Jeff Vinik] and the great fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

The 26-year-old had 45 points in 66 games for Tampa last season, including 19 goals. His best season to date came in 2014-2015, when he piled up nearly a point per game for 72 points in 77 games. He tied with captain Steven Stamkos that season, to put things in perspective.

In the case of Palat, it’s likely he’ll get the same amount as Johnson. Or perhaps even more.

Palat had 52 points in 75 games in 2016-2017, including 17 goals. The 26-year-old has 74 career goals with Tampa in 307 games and has 29 points in 46 post-season games.

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