Sometimes a relatively small free-agent signing can be the exact fit for a franchise that is looking to get over the top. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, one such addition to their roster was Pat Maroon, who joined the franchise at they found great success during the regular season but struggled to get over the hump in the playoffs. While his role with the team is relatively small, Maroon has been the exact player that the team needed, providing veteran leadership both on and off the ice while playing that tough brand of hockey that gave the Lightning what they needed to win it all… twice.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, Tampa Bay has dipped back into the pool of tough, veteran forwards by signing Corey Perry to a two-year, $1 million per year contract.
For the Lightning, the addition Perry is more of a luxury depth piece than a necessity. Barring injury, it is unlikely that the 2011 Hart Trophy winner will be asked to take on top-six minutes with the franchise, as he should continue playing in a limited role as he did with the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens over the last two seasons.
However, as a team flush with forward depth, finding consistent starting time with the Lightning may not be an easy task for Perry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either, as that may have been general manager Julien BriseBois’ plan all along when they signed him.
Perry Should Bring Timely Depth to Lightning
When you look at Perry’s scoring statistics in recent years, you’ll see a player who can still easily post 10 goals 25 points over the course of a full season even while playing only 13 minutes each night. Due to injury, though, he hasn’t been able to play a full season since 2016-17, and the expectation shouldn’t be that he will in 2021-22.
As the Lightning start giving young forwards like Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh ice time, it’s unlikely that they will immediately go out and start every night in an 82-game season. They will experience ups and downs as any rookie would expect, which means there will be stretches of time where they will find themselves as a healthy scratch after making mistakes.
This is where Perry comes into play, as he will be that perfect veteran starter to plug into the lineup when the rookies struggle. He can come in for a few games, add that power forward toughness and scoring potential to the bottom six, and then be a healthy scratch to give the rookies their needed ice time once again.
For Perry, this limited role will hopefully allow him to stay healthy throughout the regular season, as the Lightning likely signed him for what he could bring to the team in the postseason. He was an absolute monster against them at times in the last two Stanley Cup Finals, after all, and they will be expecting him to bring that same energy and pest factor to their roster now.
With Proper Utilization, Both Lightning and Perry Can Shine
As the Lightning defend their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, maintaining their winning roster was going to be impossible. Winning draws interest from other franchises, after all, so it is expected that players will depart Tampa Bay as they receive more lucrative offers that the franchise simply can’t match.
Despite these limitations and losses, BriseBois was able to make a smart, low-risk signing by bringing in Perry, as he can bring something different to the lineup while still giving the franchise plenty of flexibility when it comes to allowing their young players the opportunity to showcase why they should be future starters during the regular season.
Once the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, however, the Lightning will be ready to lean on Perry, who has shown that he still has a lot left in the tank when it comes to the biggest stages. For a franchise competing for the Cup right now, that is all you can ask for from a veteran, depth forward.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.