TAMPA — After Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois ran through his team’s laundry list of signings — five new forwards and a backup goaltender — on the first day of NHL free agency Saturday, he said he didn’t anticipate adding another defenseman with seven already under contract.
BriseBois clearly had somewhat of a change of heart, and the Lightning rounded out the first weekend of free agency Sunday by adding depth to their blue line, signing veteran defenseman Calvin de Haan, 32, to a one-year NHL contract worth $775,000.
He gives the team a fourth left-shot defenseman, slated to compete with Haydn Fleury for more minutes on the third defensemen pairing’s left side.
de Haan said the deal came together quickly. He was driving home from his brother’s bachelor party in Syracuse when his agent called telling him of the Lightning’s interest and needing a quick decision.
“I called my wife and it happened pretty fast, to be honest,” de Haan said. “So I’m really glad to get it done. It’s an exciting opportunity to play on a team that’s been competitive for a good stretch of years here and they have Stanley Cup aspirations obviously. ... It wasn’t too hard of a decision.”
de Haan had two goals and 10 assists with a plus-7 in 53 games with Carolina playing in the third pairing last season. He returned for his second tenure with the Hurricanes, successfully earning a roster spot after receiving a personal tryout. Once the Hurricanes acquired Shayne Gostisbehere before the trade deadline, de Haan was a healthy scratch for 20 of the last 23 regular-season games and didn’t play in the postseason.
“I’m not a step behind,” de Haan said. “I can still play. I know I can. It was a little bit of a frustrating season in a sense last year after getting scratched for a long time. But I’m looking forward to a new opportunity and showing what I can do going in on a clean slate with a new organization. It’ll be nice to be down in the Sunshine State for a full season.”
A former first-round pick of the Islanders in 2009, de Haan has played 573 NHL games with the Islanders, Carolina and Chicago.
de Haan admitted he thought he might not have a chance to continue his career with the way last season ended in Carolina, but appears hungry for another chance.
“There’s always that thought,” he said. “But I’ve been working hard, training hard and looking for an opportunity. I think I can be a big part of the team moving forward.”
Development camp begins
The Lightning conducted their first training sessions of development camp Sunday at the TGH IcePlex, getting an early look at some of the team’s top minor-league prospects and recent draft picks.
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Among the new faces are AHL Syracuse head coach Joel Bouchard, hired last week to replace Benoit Groulx. Bouchard’s longtime assistant, Daniel Jacob, is also joining the organization as the Crunch’s assistant coach.
“That’s why we brought a lot of the Syracuse guys in, for that reason to meet the new staff and just to get familiar,” said Lightning director of player development Stacy Roest. “But we’re not judging them on what they look like now. It’s July, so we want to keep it pretty low key. ... But it’s support for them to get to know each other so when training camp comes, the rookie tournament, then they’re ready to go.”
Forward Gage Goncalves, one of the Lightning’s top prospects who is slated to open his third season at Syracuse, said this time is important to meet the new staff.
“I think it’s really beneficial for both of us,” he said. “We get to see how they want players to play, what kind of role we might play on next year’s team. And they get to learn how we respond to coaching. Everybody’s different. It’s been awesome. Those two guys have been unbelievable so far and from what I’ve heard around the league and guys who played for them, they definitely know their stuff.”
The camp runs through Wednesday, with Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions — which will include 3-on-3 competition — open to the public.
Finley on the mend
Lightning prospect Jack Finley, the team’s second-round pick in 2020, participated in skating drills Sunday wearing a red no-contact jersey. He still is working his way back from a shoulder injury that slowed his first full season at Syracuse.
“He was one guy last year who was really trending up,” Roest said of Finley, who had 12 goals and nine assists in 62 games with the Crunch last season. “Got off to a little bit slow start and was playing big minutes, big faceoffs, big penalty-kill guy and then had the shoulder and now he’s back cleared to skate and get on the ice. But it’s July so we want to be careful.”
Finley should be fully healthy by training camp, Roest said.
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