Defenseman Matt Smaby avoided arbitration and signed a two-year deal worth $1.05 million ($500,000 for the first season, $550,000 the second) with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For much of last season, Smaby helped anchor down a blue line that was decimated by injuries, waivers, and trades. And he wasn’t the only one. Last season’s defensive corps looked vastly different from the beginning of the season to the end. On opening night of the 2008-2009 season, the defense included:
Matt Carle, Jamie Heward, Andrej Meszaros, Vladimir Mihalik, Janne Niskala, Shane O’Brien, Paul Ranger.
For the last game of the season, the defense included:
Matt Lashoff, Josef Melichar, Vladimir Mihalik, Kevin Quick, Matt Smaby, Noah Welch.
By now, we all know the story of how that came to pass. And we have all painfully winced at the number of defensemen that were used last season – a grand total of 22. It might’ve been more, but Mike Lundin was stuck in the minors due to the fear of being taken by another team as he cleared waivers to come up to Tampa Bay.
At this time, the Lightning have on their official team roster nine defensemen:
Kurtis Foster, David Hale, Victor Hedman, Lukas Krajicek, Matt Lashoff, Andrej Meszaros, Mattias Ohlund, Paul Ranger, and Matt Walker.
Other defensemen not currently on their website roster are:
Mike Lundin, Vladimir Mihalik, Kevin Quick, Matt Smaby.
All but Hedman have played in the NHL. Some played because they deserved it, and others because their team was desperate due to a lack sufficient personnel, for whatever reason. Such is the way of team sports.
So the 64 million dollar question is, who will be playing with the Lightning on opening night of the 2009-2010 season? Some are obvious – such as Hedman, Meszaros, Ohlund, and Ranger – but others not as much. Who would you like to see fill in the last two starting positions on defense?