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With a contract extension for Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning locks up its second cornerstone



The Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday announced a five-year contract extension for defenseman Victor Hedman. And with that, the team has locked up its two cornerstones -- Hedman and Steven Stamkos -- for the near future.

The contract, which TSN in Canada is reporting could be for about $20 million, though that could not be immediately confirmed, will take the 20-year-old Hedman through the 20016-17 season. Stamkos, 21, over the summer signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract that takes him through 2015-16.

That's a pretty good chunk of time to see two of the league's brightest young stars develop. And it is good for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to wrap up Hedman before he hit the market this summer as a restricted free agent.

"He has shown tremendous growth as a player in just nore than two seasons in the NHL while also becoming a key member of our team," Yzerman said in a statement. "We look forward to his continued development in a Lightning uniform."

"I love it in Tampa Bay," Hedman said in the release announcing his contract extension. "I will do all I can to help this organization be successful on and off the ice." 

We all know about Stamkos. But perhaps not enough has been written or said how much Hedman, 6 feet 6, 229 pounds, has improved, beginning with last seasons playoffs. The playoffs are always a good measure of a player, especially if he elevates his game, and Hedman did that greatly.

That progression continued this season. Sure, Hedman has had some bad games, but he is only 20, and in his third season has played just 173 games. What did former Lightning coach John Tortorella always say? Defensemen don't really understand how to play their position until they have played 300 games.

That said, Hedman just looks more confident this season. He is calm even in hectic situations, uses his stick better than ever at disrupting plays and has learned his job is defense first. Consider that Hedman has nine goals and 48 points in his career, but just two goals this season.

Hedman probably isn't as physical as some might like, given his size; he has just 20 penalty minutes this season. Then again, the Lightning does not want its players to be physical, necessarily. It always is stick on puck first.

Even so, as Hedman gets more experience and stronger, you probably can expect his physical game to expand as well.

Either way, with Stamkos and Hedman locked in for the next four and five years, Tampa bay can turns its attention to building around them.

Other stuff from this morning: Coach Guy Boucher confirmed that right wing Steve Downie will return tonight against the Red Wings after missing three games with an upper-body injury. The problem is Boucher said he doesn't know who to take out of the lineup to make room. "I really don't have anyone I want to take out," Boucher said. "The poor forward who comes out doesn't deserve to be taken out." ... As expected, Dwayne Roloson gets the start in net. ... Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan works his 1,000th pro game tonight. Mulligan said the worst injury he worked was while he was with AHL Providence. Two players collided, a wooden stick broke, the heel of which became like a spear that lodged near the groin of a player and nicked the femoral artery. Mulligan said he used his belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Mulligan has been with the Lightning for 10 years.

[Last modified: Friday, December 30, 2011 12:28am]


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