For me, a lot of the fun of being a fan of hockey is that I’m not just a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but also a fan of individual players. Often times my appreciation for a player goes beyond just when they played for the Lightning. On a personal level, it’s great to see players that came into the organization, grew and developed as players, and then moved on for whatever reason to continue to find success.
I know that a lot of other fans feel the same way. We get attached to players when they’re here and follow them for the rest of their careers. With most of the frenzy of the 2018 NHL Free Agency period passed, it’s a good time to see where some of the Lightning’s former players signed this season.
New Team: Montreal Canadiens, NHL
One of the more notable players to move on from the Lightning this season, Peca became an unrestricted free agent this summer after not playing in enough NHL games for the Lightning to retain his rights. Peca wasn’t able to find enough room in Tampa Bay to play, so he decided to move on and received a pretty nice contract from the Montreal Canadiens. He signed a two-year deal worth $1.3 million per year. He should slot in immediately as their third line center on a roster that is desperate for any center they can get.
New Team: Dallas Stars, NHL, Texas Stars, AHL
Condra finished the final year of his three-year contract with the Lightning this past season. He spent most of the last two seasons in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. Injuries didn’t help his cause - Condra had back surgery last summer - and the Lightning allowed him to walk as an unrestricted free agent. He signed with the Dallas Stars organization on a one-year, two-way contract that would pay him $700,000 in the NHL, and $275,000 in the AHL with a guarantee of $300,000. He’ll most likely be in the AHL with the Texas Stars.
New Team: Ottawa Senators, NHL, Belleville Senators, AHL
McKenna was not with the Lightning organization for long, but he made an impact during the 2016-17 season. He was acquired at the trade deadline from the Florida Panthers and played in 14 games for the Crunch down the stretch. He then led the team to the Calder Cup Finals before Syracuse fell to the Grand Rapids Griffins in six games. The Lightning did not retain him and he moved on to the Dallas Stars organization. He spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the Texas Stars, but got into two games towards the end of the season when Ben Bishop was injured. He again returned to the Calder Cup Finals with the Stars, but fell to the Toronto Marlies. Will the Belleville Senators be the answer to get him over the hump to an AHL championship? (doubtful)
New Team: Anaheim Ducks, NHL
Sustr has been one of the most polarizing figures on the Tampa roster. At times, he has looked like a solid third-pair defenseman. At other times, he’s looked like a giraffe on skates. (Well, he is a giraffe on skates at 6’7”, but that’s besides the point.) He finished out his contract with the Lightning that was paying him $1.95 million. With no room in Tampa for him—other than in the press box—he moved on. Keeping with the nice weather theme, he chose to sign with the Anaheim Ducks for one year with a $1.3 million salary.
New Team: Chicago Blackhawks, NHL
It was clearly time for Kunitz to move on after Steve Yzerman told him the team would not be offering him another contract. Despite the fact he’ll be turning 39 in September, the four-time Stanley Cup champion wanted to take another kick of the can to get that fifth. I think he might be a bit optimistic with his choice of team, but he did sign for one-year with a $1 million salary complete with a No Movement Clause.
New Team: New York Islanders, NHL
The Islanders were unable to bring back John Tavares, so they turned to the next best option... Valtteri Filppula. Ok, maybe they would have made that deal anyways. But there’s no question Filppula has lost a little bit and gotten slower as he has aged. At 34 years old, he managed to land a $2.75 million contract with the Isles that also features a full No Movement Clause. Guess he doesn’t want to leave the Island, unlike Tavares.
New Team: Minnesota Wild, NHL
Everyone’s favorite gamer has found a new home. Well, re-found it perhaps. Brown has returned to his home city of Toronto, I mean, Minneapolis on a two-year contract. The two-year pact comes with a $687,500 salary cap hit. He’s a useful fourth line player that was just squeezed out of the line-up in Tampa Bay.
New Team: Dinamo Riga, KHL
Gudlevskis was traded to the New York Islanders a year ago by the Lightning in exchange for center Carter Verhaeghe. He made another go of trying to play in North America after rumors had been swirling that he was getting interest from Finnish clubs. He clocked in with an .897 SV% for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and that was the end of it. He’ll return home to Latvia and play for his original team before he was drafted.
New Team: Maybe Tampa Bay?
Jean-Phillippe (J.P.) Cote had an interesting career. He was drafted as a defenseman in the 9th round in 2000 by the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the QMJHL. He played in the Q for parts of five seasons before going pro. He ended up signing with the Montreal Canadiens organization and appeared in eight games for the Habs in the 2005-06 season. He spent five seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL and then moved on to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Not getting another change in the NHL over three seasons, Cote went overseas to play in Germany for a couple seasons.
He came back across the pond to play for the Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12 when they were the Lightning’s AHL affiliate and helped the team to a Calder Cup championship. He stayed with the organization for the next three seasons moving to the Syracuse Crunch. He returned to the NHL for the first time in seven seasons when he was called up to Tampa to play 19 games in the 2013-14 season recording his first NHL point.
A lot of the reason Cote had stuck around with the organization and was called up in 2013-14 is because of head coach Jon Cooper’s opinion of him. He was a consummate professional that played the game the right way and was an example for all of the young prospects the team had coming up through the AHL. The call-up was something of a reward for his hard work.
After leaving the Crunch in 2014-15, Cote spent a season in Germany and then spent the past two seasons playing in France. It seems that he may be retiring from professional hockey, or at least considering it, as the 36 year old lent a hand to the Lightning at their development camp following the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Jeff Halpern, now an assistant coach for the Lightning, started out similarly and became a development coach for the Lightning working with prospects. Halpern moved up to take an assistant coaching job with the Syracuse Crunch and has earned his way into the NHL coaching circles. Could Cote be on the same path? We’ll find out.
New Team: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING!
Angelidis was one of the most popular players in Syracuse over the four seasons that he wore the C for the Crunch. The Lightning let him go after the 2015-16 season and he played with the Stockton Heat on an AHL contract. He spent 2017-18 playing for HC Bolzano in the EBEL. Bolzano is located in Italy, but he played in the EBEL, which is primarily an Austrian league with a team each from Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Angelidis has retired from professional hockey, though, to become a Pro Scout with the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a Pro Scout, he’ll be a part of the scouting staff that will be watching players in the NHL and AHL. It’s a great opportunity for him to break in to front office work and continue to work within hockey. He can learn from a great scouting staff and front office. He can also work his way up the ladder and potentially work his way towards a bigger role, weather with the Lightning or another organization, later down the line as he gains experience.
It’s no surprise that as a career minor leaguer, Angelidis did not make a boatload of money in his career. Using a little bit of guess work combined with salary information from CapFriendly.com, Angelidis likely made around $1.5 million in salary over his career. Take out taxes, and living expenses, and that doesn’t leave a lot to attempt to live on for the rest of his life. So it’s great to see that he has found a landing spot with a terrific organization that will allow him to continue growing within the sport of hockey.