The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed veteran defenseman Ian Cole to a one-year contract carrying a cap hit $3 million.
This matters because the Lightning recently traded veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh due to cap constraints, who brought a skillset known for his heart and soul play. With this loss, Tampa Bay needed to find a low-cost replacement who could block shots, put down hits, and chip in on the penalty kill.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
Now, this is not a one-for-one replacement of course, but Cole is a great value for a player who brings that toolkit to Tampa Bay. No, he won’t replace McDonagh by any means, but he is a great fit for the franchise that is still looking to win it all now.
Signing Cole Reduces’ Lightning’s Chances at Palat
Now, with this signing, the Lightning have brought more clarity to their lineup, which offers an unfortunate but expected reality. After signing Cole, Tampa Bay will have little remaining cap space which means they likely won’t be able to match any deal for unrestricted free agent Ondrej Palat.
Since he was selected by the Lightning in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Palat worked his way up the organization and became a face of the franchise. After finishing his five-year contract in the 2022 offseason, however, he was due a new deal, and while Tampa Bay worked to retain him, it appears that they just didn’t have the space available to do so.
So, while the Lightning got a defenseman that they needed, they will likely be losing one of their top performing forwards. This is a reality for any cap-crunched team, but it is still a moment that is difficult for any team to navigate.
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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.