The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed restricted free agent forward Cedric Paquette to a two-year contract extension. The deal will carry a cap hit of $1.65 million. Paquette had his first fully healthy NHL season last year playing in 80 games and all four playoff games. He missed one game due to injury and was a healthy scratch in another game. His previous career high in games was 64 in 2014-15, his rookie season. Over the previous three seasons, he has played 56, 58, and 56 games.
Paquette also set a career high in goals with 13 and his second highest point total, 17 points, since his rookie season total of 19. Paquette rode a career high 14.9% shooting percentage to get to his 13 goals. His career average now sits at 11.1% after being below 8% shooting the past two seasons.
He is an effective fourth line center that plays hard. Unfortunately, that also means he has a penchant for taking bad penalties. While he was among the team’s leaders in minor penalties drawn at even strength, he was the clear “front runner” on the team for penalties taken. According to Evolving-Hockey.com and their Penalty Goals Above Replacement metric, Paquette was a -0.8.
However, Paquette provided a good amount of value short handed, contributing 1.0 GAR which was third among the Lightning’s forwards behind Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli. Despite his goal scoring this season, his Even Strength GAR was only 0.2, even less than the 0.8 EV GAR that Martel generated in significantly less games and ice time. Overall, this gave Paquette 0.5 GAR and 0.1 Wins Above Replacement, signaling that he was a replacement level player this season. Those metrics put him clearly at the bottom of the Lightning’s forward group with Martel who only played nine games.
The $1.65 million cap hit came in higher than what I and Evolving Hockey projected for him. We both projected a two-year deal with Evolving Hockey projecting a $1.4 million cap hit. I came in a bit lower with a $1.3 million cap hit. So Paquette is getting a little bit more than was expected for him, but not so much more that it’s an awful signing. The two-year deal also will finish out his two restricted free agent years and will expire with Paquette being an unrestricted free agent. By signing him today, they’ve also avoided going to salary arbitration with Paquette.
This signing does not preclude the possibility that Paquette could be traded if the Lightning need to make a little bit of cap space. Or to make room for a prospect like Mitchell Stephens to take his place on the fourth line. While his value is not high, the Lightning could still get a mid-round pick for him though the small cap relief might be more valuable than the pick depending on how much Brayden Point is signed for.