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Lightning sign former Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian

Tampa Bay needs depth on the blue line after recent injuries. Buffalo terminated Bogosian’s contract earlier this week.
The Lightning signed defenseman Zach Bogosian, whose contract was terminated by Buffalo earlier this week. [MARK ZALESKI | AP]

TAMPA — The Lightning addressed their needs on the blue line Sunday night. Tampa Bay signed former Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year $1.3 million contract.

After Erik Cernak’s injury on Saturday, the Lightning are left with only Victor Hedman healthy of their top four defensemen. Jan Rutta and Ryan McDonagh are making progress, but neither’s return is imminent.

Bogosian adds another right-shot among the d-corps. Those are a harder to come by in the NHL and the Lightning are down Hedman’s last two partners in Rutta and Cernak. Kevin Shattenkirk stepped into that spot in game on Saturday.

“I’m familiar with their team playing against them and they’ve been so competitive the last few years,” Bogosian said by phone on Sunday. "They are built to win and I think I can come in and help do that.

Signing Bogosian before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline was important as after that cut off, no players added to the roster will be eligible for the playoffs. General manager Julien BriseBois was unavailable to comment on the signing. He will address all of the team’s moves after deadline.

Bogosian was suddenly available and affordable. Buffalo terminated his contract when he did not report to their AHL affiliate earlier this week, making him a free agent.

He’d never been a free agent before, so tried to take his time to consider the offers on the table, but also had to make a decision quickly with the Monday deadline looming. He said a new opportunity brings a lot of emotions, but the predominant feeling right now for him, his wife and their three children is excitement. And that’s before his 4-year-old Mila learns how close they’ll be to Disney World.

As a trade, Bogosian’s contract of $5.1 million didn’t make sense for the Lightning or any other team.

The 29-year-old had his second hip surgery in April and wasn’t available until November. Since then, his mobility and skating has been limited. Bogosian sank to career-low ice time of 16:50 (compared to a career average of 21:43) before being waived and reassigned to Rochester.

Bogosian could play on the third pair, but his days of being a top defenseman are likely behind him. He had been playing in the bottom four for Buffalo.

The Lightning needed to add depth on the back end. McDonagh and Rutta participated in Saturday’s morning skate but that was the first practice for either. After almost four weeks off the ice, neither will make an immediate return.

Cernak was injured when Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall fell on the back of his leg on Saturday, adding to the injury woes. He’s been ruled day-to-day.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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