It was a busy first and second day of the off-season’s signing period, referred to only as Free Agent Frenzy. Although not responsible for the biggest of signings, the Tampa Bay Lightning certainly kept themselves busy – making choices on who to keep, who to let go, and which new people to bring in.
First, there’s is Matt Gilroy, who the Bolts acquired from the New York Rangers. Gilroy played two seasons (127 games) with the Rangers and pocketed 26 points in that time. The defenceman was signed to a one-year deal worth $1-million. Gilroy told the St. Petersburg Times about coming to Tampa: “They play a skating game, and my game is built around my skating. I should fit nicely.”
Another defenceman signed was Richard Petiot. Petiot has appeared in 15 NHL games and posted his best numbers in 2008-09 with the Lightning where he had three assists, 21 penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating. Petiot was signed to a one-year, two-way contract.
Right winger Brett Connolly, only 19 years old, also singed with the Bolts over the weekend. Connolly was the sixth overall pick in 2010. Last season, Connolly scored 46 goals in 59 games in the WHL last season. He was also part of Team Canada at the World Juniors. Connolly was signed to a standard three-year entry level contract.
Also signed by the Lightning from the AHL were forwards Michel Ouellet and J.T. Wyman. Ouellet spent the 2007-08 season with the Lightning but spent the last two seasons in Europe. In total, he has played in 190 career NHL games, in which time he netted 52 goals and had 116 points. Ouellet was originally drafted by the Penguins in 2000. The 29-year-old was signed to a one-year, two-way contract.
J.T. Wyman has played in only three career NHL games – all of them with the Montreal Canadiens in the 2009-10 season. He was drafted 100th overall in 2004. Wyman received a contract like Ouellet – one-year, two-way.
The biggest acquisition for the Lightning, so far, has to be Mathieu Garon. Garon, who spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, will become Dwayne Roloson and the Lightning’s back-up goaltender. It was announced by GM Steve Yzerman that a two-year deal worth $1.3-million per season was signed. Garon, a 10-year NHL veteran, was drafted in the second round in 1996. In 275 career games, Garon’s record is 116-106-25 and he has a career goals against average of 2.82.
When this signing occured, it was clear that goaltender Mike Smith would not be returning to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s roster. Smith didn’t have to wait to long to find a new home though as he was picked up by the Phoenix Coyotes for a two-year deal.
Another player officially not returning to the Lightning is veteran forward Simon Gagne, who signed with the L.A. Kings and will join former Flyer Mike Richards on what will surely be the team to watch next season. Gagne was signed to a two-year, $7-million deal.
With all that said, there is still one crucial piece missing: Steven Stamkos. It was clear that Brad Richards wouldn’t sign with Tampa. That makes little difference as the Lightning weren’t that aggressive with the deal any ways. But Stamkos is still an essential piece to making the playoffs next season. Negotiations are still in the works and Bolts fans are getting restless. When asked, all Don Meehan, agent for Stamkos, said in an email to the press was “Still in discussion.”
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