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The New Lightning Players

Since winning their second consecutive and third all-time Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been busy.  General Manager Julien Brisebois, facing another salary cap challenge with a flat cap, pulled rabbits out of his hat. No easy feat with the expansion draft on top of the free agent period. As he’s shown throughout his tenure as Lightning GM, Brisebois seemingly has done it again. Here are the brand new Lightning players.

Before we get to the new acquisitions, let’s look at some of the players who won’t be donning a Bolt sweater next year. Because of the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken, we knew the Lightning were going to lose a good player. That’s the price of having the best team in the league. Turns out the team lost Forward Yanni Gourde to Seattle. This one hurt. No matter which Lightning player was selected by the Kraken, it was probably going to be painful.

Maybe it cut sharply because on July 8th, the team won the Stanley Cup. Nine days laters the Lightning traded Barclay Goodrow to the New York Rangers for a seventh round draft pick. As an unrestricted free agent, Goodrow had a foot out of the locker room already. In the blink of an eye, a critical piece to the back to back championships was out of here. Less than two weeks later, another one of the most important cogs was gone in Gourde. Just like that, the team was changing right before our eyes. Two days later it was the first round of the NHL draft. Then rounds two through seven the day after that.

It’s a Whirlwind

If your head wasn’t doing a complete 360 at this point, four days later the silly season of free agency begins. This is where the player turnstile around the league happened. While most NHL fans tend to look at the big name free agents, some forget the restricted free agents. These are the younger players who rely on their team to make a qualifying offer or risk losing them outright. 

The Lightning made qualifying offers on all their restricted free agents. On the day of the draft, Forward Gemel Smith signed a two year, two way contract. His cap hit for the next two years is $750,000.  A couple days later, the Lightning made a trade. Forward Tyler Johnson was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Brent Seabrook. Just like Gourde, Johnson was a fan favorite and while this deal wasn’t surprising, it was still difficult to acknowledge. 

Seabrook last played in December of 2019. He will probably be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) for the duration of his contract. Moving Johnson was necessary to create sufficient cap space to complete a full roster. 

After dealing Johnson, Brisebois found the backup goalie to Andrei Vasilevskiy in Brian Elliott. A 14 year NHL veteran, Elliott has played for five NHL teams before signing with Tampa. He’s been a starter in Ottawa, St. Louis, Calgary and his previous stop in Philadelphia.  Last three seasons, he’s backed up Carter Hart in Philly. 

Time to Know the New Lightning Players

The same day they signed Elliott, Brisebois also inked a contract with Zach Bogosian. Many fans remember Bogosian from his time with the team in the 2019-20 Cup run. Upon his return, he remarked that his kids were running through their house yelling “Go Bolts”. Happy to be returning to Tampa. Already a full day, Brisebois also signed Forward Pierre-Edourd Bellemare from the Colorado Avalanche. Capping off this eventful day, Brisebois saved the best for last. 

The team locked up Brayden Point with an eight year deal that begins a year from now. Obviously, not a new Lightning player but knowing he’s here for almost the next decade eases the loss of others. To add to the Syracuse Crunch roster, Brisebois also signed a plethora of players including defenseman Andrej Sustr.  

Perhaps, the most controversial free agent signing was Corey Perry. He signed a two year deal with the Lightning. Seems as if half the fan base loves this signing and the other half hates it. Count me in the latter group but it’s hard to argue with the experience, grit and leadership Perry brings.  Other restricted free agents that agreed to terms were Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh and Cal Foote.

Bringing in these new Lightning players means some players who were here 30 days ago have found new NHL homes. I’ve already mentioned Gourde and Goodrow as well as Johnson. Add Blake Coleman, Luke Schenn, David Savard and Curtis McElhinney to those gone but not to be forgotten. 

Time will tell if these moves will have the effect desired by the team and their fans. If nothing else, the continued success of this team on the ice stems from the moves made every off season. In bringing in this group of new Lightning players, Brisebois and his staff did not disappoint.

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