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NHL free agency wrapup: How the Lightning stayed busy on opening day

The first day was a busy one for Tampa Bay, which lost several players, added some depth, brought back a familiar face and signed a burgeoning superstar to a long-term contract.
Lightning center Blake Coleman (20) celebrates after scoring in the second period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final in June at Amalie Arena.
Lightning center Blake Coleman (20) celebrates after scoring in the second period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final in June at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jul. 28, 2021|Updated Jul. 29, 2021

TAMPA — It was a day everyone knew was coming.

Despite mutual interest in bringing him back to the Lightning, Blake Coleman left for the Flames minutes after the start of free agency Wednesday.

The forward agreed to a six-year, $29.4 million deal with an average annual value of $4.9 million, $3.1 more than he was making with salary cap strapped Tampa Bay.

Related: Lightning sign Brayden Point to eight-year extension

With his departure, the Lightning’s pesky, relentless third line of Coleman, center Yanni Gourde and wing Barclay Goodrow is no more. Gourde was lost to the Kraken in the expansion draft last week, and Goodrow was traded to the Rangers the week before that.

“I feel that I gave all that I could to Tampa, the city, the organization,” Coleman told Canada’s TSN sports network. “Obviously, maybe in a non-cap world, things work out differently here, but I think there’s a ton of mutual respect between my family, myself and the organization. … We’re also very excited for the next chapter.”

Long after his NHL days are over, Lightning fans will remember Coleman’s diving goal in the closing seconds of the second period of Game 2 of this year’s Stanley Cup final, the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens.

Also Wednesday, Tampa Bay lost defenseman David Savard, who signed a four-year, $14 million deal with his hometown Canadiens.

Savard, of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, arrived in Tampa Bay in an April trade with the Blue Jackets that put him in a position to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in his 10-year career.

Also gone is defenseman Luke Schenn, who agreed to a two-year, $1.7 million deal with the Canucks.

Who the Lightning gained

The Lightning did not walk away from the first day of free agency empty-handed.

They brought back defenseman Zach Bogosian, a member of the 2020 Cup team, on a three-year, $2.55 million deal.

Bogosian left Tampa Bay after one season in free agency and spent last season with the Maple Leafs. He said the chance to call one place home for multiple years was a critical piece of the conversations among him, his agent and the organizations interested in signing him.

“I have three little kids, and for them to be bouncing around the last few years has been hard on the family life,” Bogosian said. “So to be able to call Tampa home for three years (means a lot).”

With goalie Curtis McElhinney entering free agency, former Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was signed to back up 2021 Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy.

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Elliott, 36, signed a one-year deal worth $900,000. He played in 30 games for the Flyers last season, going 15-9-2 with a goals-against average of 3.06.

Also, forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare signed a two-year, $2 million deal. He should be in the mix for a bottom-six spot.

Tyler Johnson bids farewell to Tampa Bay

Tyler Johnson, traded to the Blackhawks on Tuesday night, said it was “bittersweet” knowing the Lightning’s second straight Stanley Cup championship season would be his last season after nine in Tampa Bay.

“It’s kind of a shock when I first got that (trade) phone call,” Johnson said on a media call from his hometown, Spokane, Wash., “but at the same time, I’m superexcited.”

Johnson has three years left on a seven-year, $35 million deal. Moving him was necessary for the Lightning. Though disappointed to leave the organization, Johnson said he will enjoy the chance to relax after years of being the subject of trade rumors.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet goodbye, but (the Lightning players) are always going to be friends and family, and I’m excited to make more (in Chicago),” he said. “I’m hoping that with this fresh start coming to Chicago to be able to get an opportunity (to play as a top-six forward) and kind of seeing where it goes from there.”

Other moves

  • Defenseman Andreas Borgman signed with Dallas on a one-year, two-way deal.
  • Goaltender Christopher Gibson signed a two-year deal with Florida.
  • Ex-Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr, defenseman Darren Raddysh, ex-Lightning forward Gabriel Dumont, forwards Charles Hudon and Remi Elie, and goaltender Maxime Lagace were signed to one-year, two-way deals with the Lightning.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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