Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was pleased he was able to come to an agreement with wing Teddy Purcell on a two-year, $4.725 million deal Wednesday morning and avoid the uncertainty of an arbitration hearing.
But Yzerman cut it close.
Yzerman said he and Purcell's agent, Kent Hughes, spoke at length Tuesday night but didn't come to an agreement until a few minutes before the scheduled 9 a.m. hearing in Toronto.
"It was," Hughes said, "down to the wire."
With the risk involved in allowing an arbitrator to rule, Yzerman said both sides compromised on a deal that will pay Purcell $2.35 million this season and $2.375 million in 2012-2013.
"Both sides were pretty confident that we didn't want to go to arbitration," Purcell said. "So it was nice we didn't have to go through that nasty process."
Purcell, 25, who made $750,000 last season, is coming off a breakout season in which he racked up career highs of 17 goals and 34 assists in 81 games. He also had a strong postseason with 17 points in 18 games, elevating his game and earning a spot among the top-six forwards.
"He was given an opportunity, and he took advantage of it," Yzerman said.
"And I think there's more potential there."
While Purcell, acquired from the Kings for Jeff Halpern in March 2010, always had the offensive skill — great hands and a quick shot — it was how he improved his compete level, raising his assertiveness and grit, that helped him put it all together.
And along with his expanded wallet, Purcell is expected to have an expanded role this season with Yzerman saying he's capable of getting stronger and playing in all situations.
"I believe he already has an excellent hockey sense, very good skills and very good vision on the ice," Yzerman said. "It was his first full year in the NHL; still a relatively young guy, improved his power and, in turn, I think the experience he had last year gives him more confidence that if you train hard and get more power you can see the benefits of that on the ice. You become more well-rounded.
"I'd like to see him be used in more situations. He has to go out and try to prove to the coaches, 'I'm ready for more responsibility. I'm ready for more ice time, and I can do it on a regular basis.' "
With Purcell signed and star center Steven Stamkos agreeing to a five-year, $37.5 million deal Tuesday, that likely completes the offseason moves for the Lightning. The signings bring its salary cap payroll to $59,326,083, $4,973,917 below the limit of $64.3 million.
"We've got guys that have an opportunity to make this team (in training camp); namely up front," Yzerman said.
"But is our roster set? Yes."