TAMPA — He can still skate.
When Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn reached the 900-game milestone this season, coach Jon Cooper delivered that simple but telling bit of praise.
“One of (Coburn’s) best assets is moving around on the ice,” Cooper said.
Coburn, 34, played 74 games this season, his 14th in the league. But time continues to curb his abilities, and he can be an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Coburn and defensemen Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi, who both also can be unrestricted free agents July 1, are in the same situation: older players who take up just enough salary cap space to have executives debating their value. That’s especially true with the Lightning as it faces giving a big raise to Brayden Point, who can be a restricted free agent July 1.
Girardi, who turned 35 last month, made $3 million this season. Stralman, who turns 33 in August, made $4.5 million. Coburn made $3.7 million. It’s possible he could return for less money.
Coburn stands out as the healthiest of the veteran defensemen. Girardi and Stralman missed a month with lower-body injuries toward the end of the regular season, and Stralman’s absence extended into the playoffs.
Most of the time Coburn skated in the third pairing with Mikhail Sergachev. They stayed together until Girardi’s injury, which had Sergachev moving into the top pairing with Victor Hedman. Coburn wound up with first-year defenseman Jan Rutta.
The Lightning values Coburn’s experience. But coaches made him a healthy scratch for Games 1 and 2 against the Blue Jackets in the first-round sweep playoff loss. Coburn, who played for the 2009-10 Flyers who overcame a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series against the Bruins, played in Games 3 and 4. In Game 4, a 7-3 loss, he had an assist, a team-high six shots on goal, three hits and a blocked shot, and was plus-2.
Cooper thinks if anyone can get to 15 seasons in the league, it’s Coburn. Will that opportunity come in Tampa Bay?
Braydon Coburn’s season
High: Coburn had three multipoint games: versus the Devils on Oct. 30, and versus the Senators on Nov. 10 and March 2. That gave him consecutive seasons with at least two multipoint games with Tampa Bay.
Low: He was out of the lineup for the first two games of the sweep playoff loss to the Blue Jackets in the first round. Jan Rutta skated in his place in the third pairing with Mikhail Sergachev.
By the numbers
14 Seasons in the league, split among the Lightning, Flyers and Thrashers
19 Assists this season, his most since getting 20 with the Flyers in 2011-12
23 Points, his most since getting 24 with the Flyers in 2011-12
113 Shots on goal, his most since 122 with the Flyers in 2013-14
Contact Mari Faiello at [email protected]. Follow @faiello_mari.