Paul Ranger (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Paul Ranger, the defenceman that left the Lightning back on October 23rd for personal reasons, has been sighted at the St. Pete Times Forum not once, but twice. The news was first nonchalantly dropped by Cristodero saying that he visited the locker room on Tuesday. Tocchet told the media that Ranger requested that he not be paid during his leave of absence and was just there to pick up tax information.
But then he was there again today...
He didn't answer any questions about the reasons why he took a leave of absence (at least not to the media), just saying hello to everyone and some chit chat in the hallways at the Forum. Read in to this how you want but Cristodero did say that "he looked fit and trim, as if he has been working out".
Ranger is an RFA after this season, who if he played this year would have made $1.1 million. Besides the question about why he actually left, the question for the Lightning in the off season will be whether they offer him a new contract. And if so, does he get more than the league minimum? Or perhaps Ranger will decide that he is walking away from hockey, and then the Lightning will need seek out another defenceman for their blue line.
It will be too bad if this is the last we've seen of him. Ranger was drafted by the Lightning back in 2002 and has played 5 years with the team. He's also one of those prized puck moving defenceman type of players that GM's pine over.