BRANDON — When Pat Maroon first signed with the Lightning three summers ago, he brought with him a championship resume after having just won the Stanley Cup with his hometown St. Louis Blues.
Since then, Maroon has become an important piece of the Lightning’s own Stanley Cup success. He brought a “why not?” mentality into the locker room that helped wash the scene of past disappointments. He serves as the team’s tough-guy enforcer as well as a veteran leader off the ice. He mentors young players and is a fan favorite all while playing a blue-collar style of winning hockey that has made him the first player since the Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s to win three straight Cups.
“He brings a lot of character to the room, to the ice,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “He’s just a guy that the first time you meet him, it’s like you’ve met before, right? He just makes it comfortable for everyone, whether it’s a young guy, veteran guys, and he just brings the group together. … We kind of joked that he might outlast us all here in Tampa.”
Now the Lightning have ensured the “Big Rig” will remain with the team through the 2023-24 season, signing him to a two-year extension with an average annual value of $1 million per year.
“He’s found a role here, he’s found a home, he’s found a spot, he’s kind of one of the guys people look up to in the room,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But he brought a winning pedigree with him, and to come off a Stanley Cup here and walk into our room, he was one of the guys that helped identify what some of the things we needed to do to win. He’s done everything we’ve asked him and I don’t think you can ever surround yourself with enough guys that win.”
The Lightning were pressed up against the salary cap, but the 33-year-old Maroon, who was slated to become a free agent this offseason, said an extension came together quickly when he told his agent, Octagon’s Ben Hankinson, that he wanted to stay in Tampa.
The Lightning know Maroon’s value on and off the ice, and with little room to maneuver because of the cap, they found a way to keep him. With the minimum salary next year at $750,000 and $775,000 in 2023-24, they’d only be saving $250,000 and $225,000, respectively, over the next two seasons by letting Maroon walk and finding his cheapest replacement.
Now the Lightning keep their third line of Maroon, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Corey Perry together through next season. Bellemare and Perry signed two-year deals this past offseason, and the trio has combined to form arguably the Lightning’s most consistent line.
“Just having the security and knowing that you’re signed for two more years and you have two more years to put a lot of work in and hopefully win more championships, that’s the whole point of it,” Maroon said. “...You don’t want to go to a team where it’s kind of a rebuild situation when you can go to a team where you build your career and keep building off that and find ways to keep winning every single year.”
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“Like I tell people, you make your money in the playoffs,” he added. “... (The Lightning) have that winning mentality that a lot of teams don’t have. … There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here.”
In 45 games, Maroon is a plus-9 while averaging 13:06 minutes. He has seven goals and six assists, including three goals and an assist in an increased role on the Lightning’s power play unit.
Maroon joked Tuesday that he was hoping for a deal similar to the nine-year, $9.5 million average annual value extension Brayden Point signed in the offseason.
“My points are too high for that, though,” Maroon said with a smile.
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