7:00 PM: The Lightning have officially announced the contract.
1:30 PM: The Tampa Bay Lightning have locked up the player who clinched their recent Stanley Cup, signing Ross Colton to a two-year contract. The deal is worth $1MM in 2021-22 and $1.25MM in 2022-23, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Colton was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on August 16 that will no longer be required.
Colton, 24, scored the Cup-winning goal for the Lightning a month ago, tapping home a backdoor pass from David Savard. The young forward is another example of Tampa Bay’s strong development system, going from a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft to a regular in the NHL lineup this season. In 30 regular season games as a rookie, Colton managed to score nine goals and 12 points. That goal pace likely won’t continue right away, but just the fact that the team has turned another mid-round pick into an NHL player is a win for the organization.
He didn’t really come out of nowhere though, as Colton found success in each of his years at the University of Vermont before starring for the Syracuse Crunch. In 2019-20 he registered 42 points in 62 games for Syracuse, throwing himself into the mix for a call-up if the Lightning ever needed a versatile player. The fact is that Colton has made himself a valuable player by being able to play center or the wing, score with the top-six, or check with the bottom-six.
Given the fact that Tampa Bay has been forced to watch Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman leave this summer, there should be even more minutes on the table for Colton this season. While it’s not certain how things shake out, he should get quite the opportunity with the defending champs.
For the Lightning, they have now finished their restricted free agent negotiations and can focus on preparing for the regular season. The team is technically over the salary cap right now, but can move Brent Seabrook’s contract to long-term injured reserve when necessary. It appears as though the offseason work is done, but never count out GM Julien BriseBois.