TAMPA — Being the backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t an easy job. The bar is high and playing time is scattered.
But the Lightning found something special in 37-year-old Brian Elliott and want to ensure the veteran netminder remains in a Tampa Bay sweater through next season.
The Lightning extended Elliott, who is 9-3-3 this season, through 2022-23, the team announced Friday morning. He will make $900,000 next season, equal to this season’s salary.
“He has come as advertised,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. And the backup goalie, when you’re playing 20 games a year and it’s sporadic in stops and starts, are you giving us a chance to win? And that’s what he’s done all year.”
Elliott chose to sign with the Lightning in the offseason after fielding offers from other clubs that likely would have provided him more playing time. But he jumped at the opportunity to play for the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champs.
And he’s had sort of a career resurgence with the Lightning, utilizing extended practice time to refine his game while still keeping his body fresh. After spending his previous 14 seasons playing up north, he’s embraced Florida winters, and he and his family enjoy Tampa Bay.
The Lightning are 6-1-1 in Elliott’s last eight appearances, including the 4-3 overtime win against Anaheim on Thursday. He entered that game in the second period after Vasilevskiy received a rare hook and stopped all 13 shots he saw. Elliott also recorded his first shutout with the Lightning in a 28-save win over Buffalo last Sunday.
Albeit in fewer games, Elliott’s 2.23 goals-against average and .921 save percentage are his best since his All-Star 2015-16 season playing for the Blues (2.07 GAA and .930 save percentage in 42 games). He was also an All-Star in 2011-12, a season that began with Elliott accepting a two-way deal with the Blues, beating out future Lightning star Ben Bishop for a roster spot and ended with Elliott and Jaroslav Halak winning the Jennings Trophy for the league’s top goaltending pair.
“I think there’s always times in a career or in a season where you really have to step up and answer the bell and I think getting those opportunities is big,” Elliott said Tuesday when asked about his longevity. “And then also performing well in those opportunities. I think I’ve thrived in those situations. And if you do well in those situations, they keep giving you chances.
“That’s what’s fun about being a goalie, what’s fun about this league and you know, I tried to be a good teammate and take advantage of those those games when you get them and try to put up the W’s.”
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