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NHL free agency: Lightning adds a third goalie in Curtis McElhinney

The Lightning also signed defenseman Luke Schenn but missed out on Joe Pavelski.
Goalie Curtis McElhinney, shown in a game between the Hurricanes and Islanders, signed with the Lightning on July 1, 2019. [AP Photo | Gerry Broome]
Goalie Curtis McElhinney, shown in a game between the Hurricanes and Islanders, signed with the Lightning on July 1, 2019. [AP Photo | Gerry Broome]
Published Jul. 1, 2019
Updated Jul. 2, 2019

Going into the start of free agency, the only position not under discussion was the Lightning’s NHL goalies.

Andrei Vasilevskiy and Louis Domingue proved to be one of the league’s best tandems in 2018-19. No need to change anything there, right? Not so much.

Tampa Bay signed another goalie: former Carolina net minder Curtis McElhinney. The addition of McElhinney and defenseman Luke Schenn highlighted the opening of free agency for the Lightning.

Related: MORE SPORTS: Money is another reason FSU's Willie Taggart isn't on the hot seat

Julien BriseBois saw an issue ahead, when Domingue’s contract expires at the end of next season. Given his success this year, reviving his career and establishing himself as a dependable goalie, Domingue and the Lightning may no longer be a great fit when negotiations open.

Tampa Bay might not be able to afford him and he’ll likely want a bigger role than he can have behind Vasilevskiy. So, a year from now, the Lightning will probably needs a new backup. BriseBois took that on Monday.

“We don’t have any young goaltenders that are knocking at the door,” BriseBois. “I look at the contracts that get handed out on days like today when you’re looking for a backup goaltender.”

Enter McElhinney, a 36-year-old journeyman with 11 years of NHL experience, mostly in the backup role. He signed a two-year deal carrying an annual-average value of $1.3 million.

McElhinney, who has played for seven NHL teams, had a revitalization of his own this year. He was waived by Toronto to start the season and claimed by Carolina. He played 33 games for the Hurricanes, with a save percentage of .912 and a goals-against average of 2.58. He and Petr Mrazek shared the net, propelling the Hurricanes to the playoffs.

“He knows the role, has a strong track record in that role and brings a veteran presence to our locker room,” BriseBois said.

So where does that leave Domingue?

BriseBois doesn’t have an answer for him right now. He (or McElhinney) would have to clear waivers to go to the AHL, which seems unlikely. There’s probably a trade on the horizon.

“These things always get sorted out,” BriseBois said. “I don’t have a timeline for that. Obviously, the sooner we can get some sort of resolution here, the better.”

In other goalie news, the Lightning signed Scott Wedgewood and Spencer Martin to play in Syracuse.

Wedgewood, a 26-year-old with seven years of mostly AHL experience, brings leadership to the Syracuse locker room and offers a reliable No. 3 in case of an injury with the Lightning. Martin has 125 career AHL games, including a 68-save shutout against Ontario last season.

D corps likely set

Former Vancouver defenseman Luke Schenn signed with the Lightning on Monday. [AP Photo | Ross D. Franklin]

The blue line was the more obvious need entering free agency. The Lightning had six defenseman and needed another right shot. It got that in Schenn with a one-year $700,000 deal.

The 29-year-old played in the AHL for the first time last season, sent down by Anaheim and then traded to Vancouver. After the trade, once he was recalled by the Canucks, Schenn proved himself reliable. That’s when he caught the Lightning’s eye.

During the interview period, Schenn and BriseBois talked about his five NHL teams over the last five years. The GM liked Schenn’s answer about what he’s been doing to improve as a player.

“His play, we thought, really picked up (with Vancouver),” BriseBois said. “He brings experience and some size (6-foot-2, 221 pounds).”

Schenn figures to compete with Jan Rutta for the third-pair spot with Braydon Coburn if the Lightning decides to put Mikhail Sergachev with Victor Hedman.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay already has scorers so why did it want Joe Pavelski?

BriseBois said that decision lies with Jon Cooper. Given this group of seven defensemen, it would make sense.

“The likeliest scenario is those are our guys,” BriseBois said of the players now under contract. “I feel very comfortable going into the season with those players.”

Joe Pavelski chooses the Stars

Former Sharks center Joe Pavelski will wear a different jersey this season, but it won't be a Lightning sweater. Pavelski chose the Dallas Stars over Tampa Bay. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Lightning took a shot at a big-name free agent for the first time in a few years. BriseBois felt they had a good interview as he pitched the long-time Shark center last week. In the end, Pavelski went with Dallas, signing a deal for three years at $7 million a season.

“If the cap had been set a little higher than the 81.5, then maybe we would have had a better chance,” BriseBois said.

Newly departed

Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6) missed Tampa Bay's series against Columbus with a lower-body injury and played only 47 regular-season games, finishing with two goals and 17 points. DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay already knew Anton Strålman and Dan Girardi weren’t coming back. Girardi hasn’t signed anywhere yet, but the Lightning will see a lot of Strålman come the fall.

The 32-year-old signed a three-year, $16.5-million deal with the Panthers. That’s a $1 million raise over what the Lightning paid him last season.

Additionally, the Lightning lost Syracuse captain Gabriel Dumont to Minnesota. He signed a two-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 in the NHL.

The organization did, however, bring back former Crunch captain Luke Witkowski and added goal-scorer Chris Mueller, both on two-way deals, worth $700,000 at the NHL level.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos.


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after he beats Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) to score the first goal of the game during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning forward has hovered just below 20 goals for years and finally reached the mark Friday.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) leads the celebration as players contratulate right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the game 3-3 in the final moments during third period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Tampa. The Lightning went on to win 4 to 3 in the shootout.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay went from sixth place in the Atlantic Division to second behind a 10-game win streak.
  3. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay pours on the goals with seven total, including two from Nikita Kucherov.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
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  5. Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) tries to control the puck the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning's Jan Rutta (44) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay falls off a recent trend of strong defense and lets Minnesota dictate the game.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches from the bench as his team plays against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Even if the play is erased by an earlier offsides, the penalty still must be served.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) in the tunnel before heading out to the ice for warms ups before taking on the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
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  8. Canada's Geneviève Lacasse (31) blocks a shot by United States' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) during the third period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [MICHAEL DWYER  |  AP]
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  9. TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 14: (Editor's Note: Image was digitally altered)  The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings fathers, brothers and mentors during the Kings' annual team trip at Amalie Arena on January 14, 2020 in Tampa. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson/NHLI via Getty Images) [CASEY BROOKE LAWSON  |  NHLI via Getty Images]
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