Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Have the Lightning reached a deal with defenseman Eric Brewer?
Posted Jun 24, 2011 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Jun 24, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Various reports are out there today that the Lightning have re-signed pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Eric Brewer to a four-year deal worth just under $16 million, as reported by Gord Miller from TSN. The estimated annual salary cap hit for the deal is $3.85 per season, which winds up totalling around $15.4 million for the length of the contract.
Assuming this is true, and there is no reason to believe the information is false (even Nate Thompson tweeted “Congrats to Eric Brewer signing a new deal and back in the fold with TBL’’ it knocks off a a big priority at the top of general manager Steve Yzerman’s list leading up to the start of free agency on July 1. Brewer was a tremendous addition to the blue line when he was acquired from St. Louis in February in exchange for a third round pick and prospect Brock Beukeboom. Brewer logged big minutes in the post season and was a big factor in the Lightning coming within a game of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
This all but takes Tampa Bay out of the mix of pursuing a top free agent defenseman this summer and leaves the Lightning with a core group of Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark, Mike Lundin (a pending restricted free agent) and Brewer heading into the 2011-12 season. Perhaps a No. 7 type guy (re-sing Marc Andre Bergeron?) is on the radar, but it’s not a priority at this point.
With one key signing out of the way, eyes will now squarely focus in on the status of pending restricted free agent Steven Stamkos. On July 1, if Stamkos is not under contract any other team is free to sign Stamkos to an offer sheet. In a nutshell, it means if Stamkos signs an offer sheet from another team, Tampa Bay has the right to match any such deal, or receive compensation in the form of fou first round draft picks should the team decline to match the offer (which really is unlikely to happen, and Yzerman has stated so)
There is also the matter of goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who has stated he wants to come back and play another year in Tampa at the age of 42. But it sure seems that the longer his situation drags on, the likelihood of a return to Tampa dwindles. Should that be the case, the Lightning are in line for a No. 1 goaltender whether that is via free agency (Tomas Vokoun?) or through trade (Corey Schneider, Jonathan Bernier?) as well as a No. 2 guy if Mike Smith is not brought back into the fold.
It also sounds as if Sean Bergenheim is going to be reaching the unrestricted free agent market on July 1 as the two sides appear to be far apart on a deal. While Yzerman has not given up on reaching a deal with Bergenheim (Yzerman said he plans on seeing Bergenheim’s agent Todd Diamond this weekend), I don’t expect that bridge to be gaped before next week.
I also wouldn’t count on Simon Gagne coming back next season as of right now he appears to be one of the guys low on the priority list for Yzerman. It doesn’t close the door on a Gagne return, but it does appear as if he will be on the open market on July 1.