TAMPA — When the Lightning acquired forward Mikey Eyssimont from the Sharks near the trade deadline this season for underperforming forward Vladislav Namestnikov, they believed they were getting a player who could help them beyond the current season.
Opening an offseason in which the Lightning will retool their roster, their first move Friday was to sign Eyssimont, who could have been an unrestricted free agent in July, to a two-year deal worth an average annual value of $800,000.
Eyssimont, 26, fulfilled the Lightning’s hopes, proving to be a player with speed who can forecheck and create offensive opportunities, putting him in a position to solidify a bottom-six role in training camp next season.
The Lightning were Eyssimont’s third organization this season after the Jets and Sharks, and he arrived in Tampa Bay with just 40 games of NHL experience.
But he quickly became a piece of the Lightning’s winning formula, to the point that coach Jon Cooper inserted him into the lineup when he wanted more jump in a must-win Game 5 against the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs.
Eyssimont scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist in a 4-2 victory. He had five scoring chances in three postseason games, including a breakaway in overtime of Game 6, a 2-1 Tampa Bay loss to end the series.
He entered the offseason as an unrestricted free agent because he met Group 6 status: He had reached his 25th birthday, played at least three professional seasons and played in fewer than 80 NHL games.
Signing Eyssimont was easy for the Lightning. He got a $50,000 raise over his 2022-23 salary, which was the league minimum, and he won’t have much of an impact on the team’s salary-cap situation.
The Lightning now have five potential unrestricted free agents: forwards Alex Killorn, Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; defenseman Ian Cole; and backup goaltender Brian Elliott. Two arbitration-eligible restricted free agents, forwards Ross Colton and Tanner Jeannot, are in line for raises.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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