The Tampa Bay Lightning did their best to sustain their now two-time Stanley Cup championship roster over the summer. It was not the easiest task for general manager Julien BriseBois, as the team had to let some stellar talent go, including Yanni Gourde (Seattle Kraken), Blake Coleman (Calgary Flames), and Barclay Goodrow (New York Rangers), among others. Even though the organization had salary cap restraints, BriseBois was able to fill the holes left by those departing players. He signed veteran winger Corey Perry, brought back defenseman Zach Bogosian, inked goalie Brian Elliott to back up starter Andrei Vasilevskiy, and agreed to terms with forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Bellemare had an interesting journey to the NHL. He didn’t did play in the junior leagues, nor did he go the college route to gain the attention of hockey scouts. His hockey career has been built on hard work that drew the attention of NHL general managers while playing in another part of the world.
For those who may not know a lot about Bellemare, here is his background.
Bellemare: Established Bottom-Six Forward
Bellemare joined the NHL as an undrafted free agent who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014. He was 29 years old and had developed his game overseas, including stints with Leksands IF in the HockeyAllsvenskan (Sweden’s second-highest league) and with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League (formerly Elitserien), and put up stats that were good enough for the NHL. Between both Leksands IF and Skelleftea AIK, he tallied the following numbers:
- 2006-07 (Leksands IF): 8 goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 44 games
- 2007-08 (Leksands IF): 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 40 games
- 2008-09 (Leksands IF): 31 goals and 18 assists for 49 points in 41 games
- 2009-10 (Skelleftea): 9 goals and 5 assists for 14 points in 49 games
- 2010-11 (Skelleftea): 10 goals and 8 assists for 18 points in 53 games
- 2011-12 (Skelleftea): 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points in 55 games
- 2012-13 (Skelleftea): 6 goals and 16 assists for 22 points in 29 games
- 2013-14 (Skelleftea): 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points in 52 games
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall liked what he saw from the French native and brought him into the fold before the 2014-15 NHL season.
Bellemare proved himself immediately and made the Flyers NHL roster without spending any time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the American Hockey League. In his first NHL season, he played 81 regular-season contests and netted six goals and 12 points. He continued to be a good depth forward for the club and shined offensively. During his time in Philadelphia, he put up the following regular-season numbers:
- 2014-15: 6 goals and 6 assists for 12 points in 81 games
- 2015-16: 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in 74 games
- 2016-17: 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in 82 games
Bellemare also appeared in five playoff matchups for the Flyers in 2015-16, with one assist. Throughout his time in Philly, he developed into a reliable bottom-six forward.
After three seasons with the Flyers, Bellmare was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft before the 2017-18 season. In their inaugural season, the franchise had a magical run to a Pacific Division title and reached the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Washington Capitals. Stars emerged like forwards William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, but Bellemare helped stabilize the bottom six. In 72 regular-season games in his first season in Vegas, he scored six goals and 16 points. He also put up three assists in 20 games during that postseason run. He returned for a second season with the Golden Knights and put up 15 points in 76 regular-season contests (six goals and nine assists). However, he only played in six games and was pointless in the 2019 Playoffs.
Vegas let him walk in free agency that offseason. He inked a two-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche as general manager Joe Sakic tried to shape his lineup with complementary talent. Sakic also traded for Andre Burakovsky from the Capitals and Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs and signed free agents Joonas Donskoi and Valeri Nichushkin. The goal was to surround the Avs’ stars, like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, with a strong supporting cast and make them competitive enough to clinch a Cup championship.
Bellemare stayed in Colorado for two seasons. The team was dominant in both and came close to achieving greatness. In the 2019-20 pandemic-shortened season, the Avalanche ranked second in the Central Division and the Western Conference (behind the St. Louis Blues). They had a solid round-robin tournament and won their first-round series against the Arizona Coyotes in five games. However, they were stopped in their tracks in the second round with a loss in Game 7 to the Dallas Stars. Bellemare scored nine goals and 13 assists in 69 games during the regular season and added two goals and an assist in 15 playoff matchups that season.
In 2020-21, Colorado won the newly formed West Division (due to the ongoing pandemic) and swept the Blues in the opening playoff round, but they fell short in a six-game loss to Bellemare’s former team, Vegas, in round two. The Avalanche came out strong in Game 1 and won in convincing fashion, 7-1, but despite a 2-0 series lead, Vegas battled back and advanced on to take on the Montreal Canadiens. Bellemare had nine goals and two assists in 53 regular-season games and posted three assists in 10 postseason games.
Bellemare has always had a positive impact on the ice. He has grown more comfortable in his time in the league, and GMs have taken notice. But he has yet to win the Cup. Enter the Lightning.
Providing Support for a Lightning Three-Peat
The Avalanche chose not to re-sign Bellemare this offseason, and he hit free agency once again. The Lightning were forced to let some of their talented players go, and BriseBois, who recently signed a contract to remain Tampa’s general manager, got to work filling the holes, which included adding Bellemare on a two-year deal worth $2 million.
Bellemare has never been expected to carry a team offensively. Despite the losses to their roster, Tampa Bay will still be led by Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos, to name a few. Bellemare will be a bottom-six forward who complements the team’s stars, as he did in Vegas and Colorado. He knows his role. The team also still has enough firepower to dominate and win a third straight Stanley Cup. He brings 507 regular-season games of NHL experience to the table, with 47 goals and 51 assists and 10 points (two points and eight assists) in 56 playoff games.
The last team to pull off the three consecutive Cup championships was the New York Islanders (who won four straight victories from 1980-83) back in their dynasty years with players like Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, and Denis Potvin. The Lightning still has the talent to pull off the next three-peat, and now they have the support with players like Bellemare, who can make an impact every night.
I have been a hockey fan for most of my life, and have played the game myself for more than six years. I graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2018, with a bachelor’s in Broadcasting & Mass Communication. Previous positions held include being a Sports Analyst for Oswego’s student-run TV station, WTOP-10; News/Sports Intern for WIVB-TV Channel 4; and Sports Beat Writer Intern for Pro Player Insiders.