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Lightning sign veteran defenseman Ian Cole

Tampa Bay opens free agency by focusing on restructuring its defenseman corps with veteran blue-liner and also brings back Vladislav Namestnikov.
Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) works to position himself in front of the net against Hurricanes defenseman Ian Cole (28) during a game last November. The two reportedly will be teammates in Tampa now.
Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) works to position himself in front of the net against Hurricanes defenseman Ian Cole (28) during a game last November. The two reportedly will be teammates in Tampa now. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jul. 13|Updated Jul. 13

BRANDON — The Lightning’s first move of free agency was shoring up their revamped blue line, signing defenseman lan Cole on Wednesday.

Cole, 33, agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

With Ryan McDonagh traded to Nashville, the acquisition of Cole gives the Lightning another veteran left-shot defenseman.

Cole played 75 games for Carolina last season, notching two goals and 17 assists with a plus-15 and an average ice time of 17:09.

He has played 670 NHL regular-season games with six different teams. He also has made the postseason in nine of his 12 NHL seasons, totaling 110 playoff games, and was a member of the Penguins teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

Related: Lightning sign Sergachev, Cirelli, Cernak to 8-year extensions

Cole likely will slot in behind Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev on the left side of the Lightning’s defenseman pairings. The Lightning could also lose right-shot defenseman Jan Rutta, who became a free agent when the official signing window opened at noon.

Lightning forward Ondrej Palat is also testing the free-agent market after the team was unable to reach a deal to re-sign him.

Bolts bring back Namestnikov

Vladislav Namestnikov, who spent time in Detroit this past season, is headed back to Tampa.
Vladislav Namestnikov, who spent time in Detroit this past season, is headed back to Tampa. [ DERIK HAMILTON | AP ]

The Lightning also signed free-agent forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a one-year deal, agent Dan Milstein announced on Twitter.

Namestnikov’s deal is worth $2.5 million, the team announced.

He played 75 games with Detroit and Dallas last season, scoring 16 goals and 30 points. He also notched five points in 15 postseason games for the Stars, to whom he was traded at last season’s deadline.

The 29-year-old came up with the Lightning, drafted in the first round in 2011 and playing for Tampa Bay from 2013-18. His best season came in 2017-18, when he tallied 20 goals and 22 assists in 62 games with the Lightning before he was traded to the Rangers at the deadline in the deal that brought McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa.

Namestnikov has played 553 games in his nine-year career, and an additional 48 postseason games with Tampa Bay, Colorado and Dallas.

The Lightning also signed forward Felix Robert to a two-year, entry-level contract. Robert, 22, scored 16 goals and 34 points with a team-high plus-19 rating last season playing for the Penguins’ AHL club.

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