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Tampa Bay Lightning sign Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to two-year contract

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There’s that penalty killer I was looking for.

Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche - Game Five Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to a two-year contract. The contract will carry a $1 million cap hit. The Lightning have already made a number of moves today, including bringing back defenseman Zach Bogosian who is expected to be on the NHL roster, and a bunch of depth players for the Syracuse Crunch. In signing Bellemare, the Lightning are adding a very solid piece to their bottom six.

Bellemare was never drafted and is a native of France. Before coming to the NHL in 2014-15, he spent eight seasons playing in Sweden at various levels. The Philadelphia Flyers signed him as a 29 year old and he made his North America debut in the NHL. He spent his first three seasons in the NHL with the Flyers and posted 17 goals and 34 points over 237 games. He then moved to Vegas in 2017-18 and spent two seasons with them posting 31 points in 148 games. Bellemare has spent the past two seasons with Colorado putting up 33 points 122 games. Overall, he has 507 games played in the NHL with 47 goals and 98 points.

Bellemare is a pure fourth liner and plays the center ice position. He doesn’t bring much play driving or offense to the ice, but is a very strong defensive player. Over his career, he has won 51.3% of his faceoffs, which is something the Lightning have struggled with at times over the past few seasons.

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With Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman moving on this offseason, the Lightning were looking very thin at forward on the penalty kill. The top of the depth chart was looking like Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, and then some guys. I say some guys somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that the Lightning would be turning to some players that don’t have a lot of penalty kill experience. Mathieu Joseph and Mitchell Stephens would likely be taking up some ice time. Ross Colton and Taylor Raddysh also could have potentially been out there shorthanded as well.

But Bellemare gives the Lightning another player that has a lot of penalty killing experience. His impacts on the penalty kill have not been the greatest, but the Lightning should still find some value there.

Bellemare joining the Lightning also pushes Mitchell Stephens potentially to the wing, or out of the line-up altogether. Stephens missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury early in the season. He got a little bit of playing time at the end of the season after returning from a conditioning stint in Syracuse, but did not play in any playoff games.

Between Bellemare, Charles Hudon, and Gabriel Dumont, plus re-signing Gemel Smith, the Lightning have brought some veteran forwards into the organization that can push for line up spots. I expect that this means the competition for the bottom six lines is going to be rather fierce in training camp. Ross Colton, Pat Maroon, and Mathieu Joseph are pretty locked into their spots, and Bellemare takes one more, so that leaves two spots in the bottom six up for grabs, plus the extra skater position.

Smith, Hudon and Dumont are veteran players with a decent amount of experience in the NHL. They won’t make it easy on Mitchell Stephens, Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk to take those spots. Simon Ryfors is another free agent signing from earlier in the offseason that could be pushing for one of those three spots as well.