Tampa Bay Lightning re-sign Slater Koekkoek to a one-year contract

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Slater Koekkoek
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Slater Koekkoek /

The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed defenseman Slater Koekkoek to a one-year contract. He will return to Tampa Bay after playing most of last season in Syracuse.

Since the start of free agency Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning have made several signings, including the acquisition of forward Chris Kunitz, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Today, the Lightning made another move and re-signed one of their young defensemen, Slater Koekkoek.

Tampa Bay signed Koekkoek to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800,000, which is around what he was expected to receive. The one-way part of his contract determines what level of contract he has and what he will earn. The cap hit on his contract is $894,167, and he will become a restricted free agent in 2018, according to Cap Friendly.

Koekkoek, a 2012 first round draft pick, is entering his fourth season with the Lightning and was set to become a free agent this summer. The 23-year-old Ontario native played in 29 games last season and earned four points over that span. He spent most of the 2016-17 season with the Syracuse Crunch, though, and played in 48 games, notching two goals and 11 assists with a zero plus/minus rating.

In the 2017 playoffs, Koekkoek earned seven points in 22 games and had a plus-6 rating. After signing an additional defenseman Saturday and adding more defensive depth to the organization, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a choice going into this offseason on what to do with one of their younger, yet still developing, blueliners.

Koekkoek was in need of a new contract, and the Lightning delivered. Now, going into training camp this year, he is expected to make the team and play top-6 minutes in 2017-18. The young blueliner was also in the talks of possibly getting sent to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft after he was left off the protection list, but that never happened.

With the signing of former New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, the Lightning are expected to figure out what to do with the six to seven roster spots in the defensive core. Of course, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Sustr and Girardi will make the team and fill in the top-6, but Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin, and potentially newcomer Mikhail Sergachev, will likely be competing for those last few roster spots.

At this point in Koekkoek’s development, he needs to stick with the Lightning this season instead of playing with the Crunch again. Some have speculated that bringing in Girardi or a comparable player would hinder the development of Tampa Bay’s younger defensemen, but Koekkoek will still have the opportunity to make an impact this coming season, barring injuries or any other setbacks.

Next: Tampa Bay Lightning sign forward Chris Kunitz to a 1-year deal

Koekkoek is a talented player and is capable of playing in the NHL, but he’s yet to play a full season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though injuries and other obstacles have set back his progression some, he is a first round pick (10th overall) after all and should be close to being a consistent performer in the league. This organization has had issues holding on to first round selections (most notably Jonathan Drouin getting traded last month), so the hope is that Koekkoek will stick around.