General Manager Julien BriseBois is working his way through his summer to-do list having signed Cedric Paquette to a two-year deal earlier today and now inking forward Carter Verhaeghe to a one-year, two-way contract. As of publishing, the dollar amount of the contract has not been released. A fair guess would put the NHL salary at the league minimum of $700,000.
For the 23-year-old Verhaeghe, this marks the second offseason in a row where the Lightning have re-signed him to a one-year deal. Following a somewhat vagabond start to his young career, it must be nice to gain some familiarity with an organization. Prior to the 2017 trade that brought him to the organization, he had played for Toronto Marlies and Bridgeport SoundTigers in the AHL and the Missouri Mavericks in the ECHL.
To say he’s found a home in Syracuse is an understatement. After a delayed start in 2017-18 due to an injury, he posted 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) in 58 games with the Crunch. That performance was good enough to earn him a one-year deal and another season in Syracuse. It also placed him at 20th in Raw Charge’s Top 25 players Under 25.
In 2018-19 Verhaeghe set a personal best with an outstanding 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 76 games. The 82 points also set a new Crunch record and was the first time in franchise history that a member of the team led the league in scoring. Verhaeghe and teammate Alex Barre-Boulet tied for the league lead in goals with 34 (one ahead of new teammate Chris Mueller).
So, how does he build on that season? For the first time in his career, he has a legitimate shot at making an NHL team out of training camp. The Lightning do have some open spots on their bottom lines and Verhaeghe has the skill set to fill one of those openings. He is responsible enough defensively to avoid Coach Cooper’s doghouse and has the offensive upside to take advantage of other teams.
He is an above average skater with a deceptive wrist shot that is often on the goalie before he is aware a shot has been taken. While he did play at center early in his career, he has spent most of his tenure with the Crunch on the wing, a spot that he most likely would occupy in the NHL as well.
Of course, there is the risk that another team may take a shot at him if the Lightning try to put him on waivers. He will be 24-years-old at the start of the season and an 80-point season in the second best professional league is bound to garner some attraction from some franchises desperate for offense and room to take his contract, which shouldn’t be too expensive.
This is an excellent depth signing for the organization, providing them with a proven AHL scorer who may be ready to take the next step and produce in the NHL.