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Point not with Lightning to open training camp

GM says no timeline for signing restricted free agent center

by Corey Long / Independent Correspondent

TAMPA -- Brayden Point was not with the Tampa Bay Lightning when they opened training camp Thursday, and general manager Julien BriseBois said he has no timeline for when the restricted free agent will sign a contract.

"The sooner the better," BriseBois said at Lightning media day. "It's a process and at this point we just haven't come to some sort of resolution."

BriseBois had expressed hope this offseason that the 23-year-old center, who set NHL career highs with 41 goals and 92 points last season, would be signed before the start of the camp.

"I'm still optimistic that we'll get something done," BriseBois said. "I don't have a timeline for you and that's all I can say about the process at this point."

Captain Steven Stamkos said he's hopeful the sides will come to terms on a contract before the Lightning begin their regular against the Florida Panthers at home Oct. 3.

"You can't replace a guy like [Point]," Stamkos said. "We're still really early. There's still a lot of time before the season. This summer is obviously very different than ones in the past with the amount of restricted free agents that are still unsigned.

"[Point] is a great friend and teammate. We want him to do what he has to do, but at the same time we have to worry about ourselves and the guys that are at camp right now."

Video: TBL@STL: Point taps in McDonagh's feed for 40th goal

Point is among a group of high-profile restricted free agents who remain unsigned, including forwards Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins.

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh said he expects Point to be ready to go when he does sign and doesn't anticipate a drop-off in his play.

"I think just knowing him for the past year and a half, when and if he gets here, he's going to jump right in and be able to pick it up right away," McDonagh said. "It gives me confidence that we can build something here and keep growing as a team right from the start of camp.

"And hopefully we're getting better and getting better and then you add a piece like that, whenever it is, and it's like a major acquisition."

Selected by Tampa Bay in the third round (No. 79) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Point has 198 points (91 goals, 107 assists) in three seasons with the Lightning.

BriseBois said he doesn't expect Point's contract situation to be a distraction for the players in camp.

"Everyone that's in that room right now behind us, they're focused on the task at hand," BriseBois said. "And that's to get ready during training camp, make sure we have a really productive training camp and to be ready by opening night.

"The Brayden Point contract, that's for me, Brayden and his agent to figure out."

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