On the eve of the NHL's free-agency signing period, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks parted ways with key cogs of Stanley Cup-winning eras for both franchises, allowing both some maneuverability moving forward.
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay traded forward Tyler Johnson and a 2023 second-round draft pick to Chicago in exchange for defenseman Brent Seabrook, both teams announced, in a complicated move that involves a long-term injury.
"I'd like to personally thank Tyler for what he has meant to this organization over the past nine years," Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois said in the club's news release announcing the swap. "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."
Johnson, 30, had just eight goals and 22 points in a limited role for the Lightning this season, but occupied important minutes in the postseason and was a contributor to the last two postseason runs, both of which ended with a Tampa Bay title.
"Tyler Johnson adds a large amount of skill and depth to our offense. His versatility across the lineup, two-way play and championship experience throughout his career make our lineup stronger," Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said in his team's news release. "We look forward to watching the immediate impact he will have on our team."
An undrafted veteran, Johnson is signed through the 2023-24 season with a salary-cap hit of $5 million, and with the Lightning backed up against the cap, he became expendable. He has 161 goals and 361 points for his career, and there was some thought that the Spokane, Washington native might end up with the expansion Seattle Kraken during their first offseason. But instead, he will join the retooling Blackhawks, who have been quite busy the past week.
Bowman has said Chicago is in a rebuild, but over the last week, he has accelerated the timeline. On Friday, the Blackhawks traded for defenseman Seth Jones from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and gave him an eight-year, $9.5 million AAV contract.
Then earlier on Tuesday, the Blackhawks traded for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights. Chicago had wanted to add veteran goaltending this season, but decided to truly go for it when the reigning Vezina Trophy winner was made available. However Fleury, 36, wanted to finish his career out in Las Vegas, sources say, creating a dramatic day in both cities.
Fleury knew the trade was possible, but was surprised when it came down on Tuesday regardless. The veteran, as such, has decided to take time to see if he wants to report to the Blackhawks for the last year of his contract, which pays $7 million, or simply retire.
According to sources, Bowman spoke to Fleury on Tuesday afternoon and told him the team wanted to respect him with enough time and space to make his decision.
Seabrook, 36, is a former first-round selection of the Blackhawks -- drafted No. 14 overall back in 2003 -- and was a mainstay on the blue line for three Stanley Cup runs in Chicago.
He is third in franchise history in games played (1,114) and one of just four Chicago defensemen to top 100 goals. Seabrook also had 20 goals and 59 points in 123 career postseason games for the Blackhawks.
But he missed all of last season with a hip injury, and will remain under the NHL's long-term injured reserve designation for the remainder of his contract, the Lightning confirmed. He, too, is signed through the 2023-24 season, carrying a $6.8 million cap hit. But because of the LTIR designation, he will not count against Tampa Bay's cap.
"I would first like to thank Brent for his cooperation in this process," Bowman said. "Throughout his career, Brent put his team first and we appreciate all his many accomplishments with and contributions to the Chicago Blackhawks.
"He will be remembered as a champion and will always be a part of the Blackhawks family."