The Chicago Blackhawks have made another trade, acquiring Tyler Johnson from the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning will also be sending a 2023 second-round pick, while Chicago will send Brent Seabrook’s contract back to Tampa Bay. Seabrook is not expected to play again, meaning his contract can be moved to long-term injured reserve. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that there was no salary retained in the deal. Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois released a short statement about the move:
I’d like to personally thank Tyler for what he has meant to this organization over the past nine years since he joined the Lightning as an undrafted free agent. He played a pivotal role in the success the team has enjoyed and will forever be remembered as two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Bolts. We wish him all the best in Chicago.
Not only does moving Johnson’s contract open up $5MM in cap space for the Lightning, but acquiring Seabrook’s doesn’t really cause them much issue. It will be tricky, managing the cap without accruing any space during the regular season while in LTIR, but the Lightning have shown they are more than willing to operate in that manner, acquiring dead contracts like Anders Nilsson and Marian Gaborik in the past. The team now essentially has cleared Johnson’s entire $5MM in cap space, though the machinations of LTIR will force them into very specific moves as the season approaches.
Still, ridding themselves of Yanni Gourde through the expansion draft and Johnson through this trade has basically fixed the Lightning’s cap issues, giving them some wiggle room to fill out the depth chart.
So quickly things change in Chicago though, as now Seabrook and fellow franchise icon Duncan Keith are both gone from the organization. Just a year ago Seabrook’s contract looked like one of the worst in the league, but now that he’s not expected to play again, it actually became an asset for the Blackhawks. They added a second-round pick while also landing a player who can help them next season without giving up anything of real value.
Johnson, 30, has three years left on his contract and should actually see an offensive uptick with increased usage in Chicago. Buried behind a long list of offensive talents in Tampa Bay, he’s not so far removed from the 29-goal season he had in 2018-19. In fact, there was a time when Johnson was among the Lightning’s best players, even leading the team in scoring with 72 points in 2014-15. While that might be a lofty goal to return to, he’s still an effective player that should help the Blackhawks compete for the playoffs next season. Add in that he’s now coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships and his $5MM cap hit starts to look awfully reasonable.