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Point 'sure' to sign contract with Lightning, Cirelli says

Teammate, friend believes there is plenty of time for restricted free agent center, team to agree

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

VAUGHAN, Ontario -- Brayden Point remains a restricted free agent after completing his three-year, entry-level contract last season. Anthony Cirelli, who considers Point one of his closest friends on the Tampa Bay Lightning, is confident Point and the Lightning will be able to reach an agreement.

"I've talked to him a little bit (this offseason), but it is a long summer," Cirelli said Thursday. "There is still a lot of time for a contract to happen, so he's just taking it slow. I'm sure he and the team are going to get something done."

Point, a 23-year-old center, was third on the Lightning with 92 points (41 goals, 51 assists) in 79 games, up from the 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) he scored in 82 games in 2017-18. 

Video: Talking Lightning offseason, Point contract situation

Cirelli, a 22-year-old forward who had 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games with Tampa Bay last season, his first full NHL season, said Point should get more credit for how much he has improved.

"He scores goals, he makes plays and is good defensively," said Cirelli, speaking at the second annual Marner All-Star Invitational, benefitting Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner's charity, the Marner Assist Fund. "He is superfast and supersmart, he kind of has a little bit of everything."

Point is eligible to receive an offer sheet from another NHL team. Tampa Bay could then choose to match it to keep him or get NHL Draft pick compensation based on its value.

Point has 198 points (91 goals, 107 assists) in 229 regular-season games, and 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games since entering the NHL in 2016-17.

"He's an unbelievable player, he's one of our best players for sure on the ice and he's great to be around in the room," Cirelli said. "He's one of my good buddies on the team. He drives our team, he motivates our team, he does everything well. I think he's a big piece of our team for sure."

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