While looking back at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s unexpected first round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets back in April, multiple factors were to blame. There’s the natural complacency from clinching the Presidents’ Trophy early, coupled with the fact that the team’s biggest stars failed to show up until it was too late. The special teams were an absolute disaster, the penalty killing in particular. However, a lack of size up front has been cited by some as a reason the team has fallen short in the postseason when the checking becomes tighter.
When the Lightning traded J.T. Miller and Adam Erne in separate trades to the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings, respectively, more size from the forward ranks exited town. On Saturday, the Lightning addressed that concern with the signing of unrestricted free agent forward Pat Maroon.
The 31-year-old Maroon, coming off a Stanley Cup championship with his hometown St. Louis Blues, signed a one-year contract with the Lightning on Saturday worth $900,000. At 6’3″, 225 pounds, Maroon brings size, net-front presence, and Stanley Cup experience to a roster that is still loaded with talent and well within its championship window.
“We’re very pleased to add Pat to our organization today,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement. “He brings size and physicality to our group as well as significant playoff experience. We expect Pat to be a great addition to the roster.”
A year ago at this time, Maroon didn’t receive the free agent payday he was expecting, and instead signed a one-year deal worth $1.75 million to join the Blues.
Maroon got to play in front of his son, who lives in St. Louis, and scored 10 goals and 28 points in 74 regular season games. In 26 playoff contests, he notched three goals and seven points, none bigger than his goal in Game 7 of the second round against the Dallas Stars. That goal, the double-overtime winner, put the Blues in the Western Conference Final, and eventually St. Louis knocked off the Boston Bruins in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final for their first Cup title.
While the Lightning’s roster is loaded with speed and skill, there have been concerns that they didn’t have the size to hold up in the playoffs.
Although Maroon is not a blazing fast skater, he’s not afraid to go to the front of the net, into the corners, and mix it up with the opposition. In other words, even the most stacked teams need good role players and grinders to complement their skilled guys. According to CapFriendly, the Lightning possess $8,476,699 in cap space.
Even though Brayden Point still hasn’t signed a new contract, the Maroon deal continues to show that Tampa is a destination for free agents and that players are willing to take discounts to come play for a team that will enter 2019-20 as one of the favorites, yet again, to make a run at the Cup. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but the Lightning aren’t sitting back just because of one unexpected playoff defeat.
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