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Corey Perry signs with Tampa Bay Lightning

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reportedly signed forward Corey Perry to a two-year contract. Interesting. Corey Perry joined the Dallas Stars for the 2019-20 after being bought out by the Anaheim Ducks whom he had spent his entire career with and won a Stanley Cup. He faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final and lost. He then signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens. He one again faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final... and lost.

So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

A natural right wing, Corey Perry has appeared in 1,094 career games in the NHL with 386 goals, 432 assists, and 818 points. Up until 2018-19, he was a high end offensive production, winning the Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy in 2010-11. He topped 30 goals in six seasons. He topped 50 points in nine seasons, fell short one season with 49 points, and put up 36 in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13.

However, since the 2017-18 season, Perry’s offense has dropped off accumulating just 20 goals, 32 assists, and 52 points over 137 games for 0.38 points per game. Perry has also annoyed opposing fans because he has a history of blurring the line between clean and dirty play, particularly around the front of the net with goalies. Look at this guy, you’re blood is boiling a little, isn’t it?

Dallas Stars Headshots Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

HockeyFights.com also agrees, as he has 37 career NHL fights, 2 AHL fights, 15 OHL fights, and one fight in the Memorial Cup. So plenty of opponents over the years have wanted to punch his face. It is notable though that he has never fought a Lightning player and never fought any player currently on the Lightning roster.

He’s joining the Lightning now though. For two years. Which like the Stars and Canadiens fans before us, I will cheer for him. He’s a Bolt now. But what does he bring to this team?

Yesterday the Lightning went out into the free agent market and picked up Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to shore up the bottom six with a very strong defensive forward that lacks much offensive upside. In Corey Perry, they’ve pick up another forward that is strong defensively, with a little more offense to his game than Bellemare, but isn’t the top six offensive contributor he was in his prime years. Combine that with Pat Maroon, who is mediocre defensively, and lacks much offensive upside, and you have a fourth line that has the potential to be a great defensive line, but could struggle to put the puck in the net. That is if Perry plays on the fourth line.

The Lightning may also look to use Perry more on the third line, perhaps teaming him up with Mathieu Joseph and Ross Colton to give them a defensive injection to go with their offensive potential. Joseph has a good shot, speed to burn, and is aggressive on the forecheck. Colton is a little slower, stronger defensively, and just plays a sound overall game. Add Perry into that, who can definitely much it up in the corners and in front of the net, and you could have yourself a new energy line that starts a lot of games and periods for Jon Cooper just as the Yanni Gourde line did.

The bigger picture is that by bringing in Bellemare and Perry, the Lightning have signaled that they do not have much faith in their prospects to fill in those roster spots. If we assume that Colton and Joseph are secure in the line-up, along with Maroon and the two new comers, you’re left with one spot, either third line wing or fourth line wing in the line-up and one spot to be the 13th forward on the roster.

Those spots that were open were likely to be contested by Mitchell Stephens, Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, and Simon Ryfors. Not to mention depth signing Charles Hudon who has enough NHL experience and a good season as a third liner and a strong season in Switzerland behind him to push for a roster spot.

I had a lot of hope that at least Raddysh could push into the line up after having a strong offensive season in Syracuse last year. Now, that’s looking more doubtful. Among the young players that have been in the Lightning organization prior to this offseason, Stephens and Barre-Boulet are the only ones with some NHL experience. Stephens lost most of last season to a knee injury and Barre-Boulet didn’t provide much offense in his NHL games, including an extended stint playing on the top line.

One thing going in Stephens’ favor for being in the line-up, is that Perry doesn’t play on the penalty kill, despite his even strength defensive abilities. The Lightning are currently looking at Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli as their most capable penalty killers along with Bellemare. After that, you’re looking at Joseph and Colton who do not have a ton of penalty killing experience at the NHL level. If Stephens isn’t in the line-up, the Lightning would have to turn to some more of their top six to fill in the penalty kill time, looking to players like Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat to pick up at least a little bit of time, while the other five get the bulk of the ice time.

It’s possible that the Lightning may end up moving one or two of those younger players in small trades in the coming days or weeks. It’s not because of the cap, as they’ll all be making minimal salaries, but because they’re no longer waiver exempt. If Julien BriseBois believes they would be claimed on waivers after training camp, and would not make the team, then it would be best to find them a home somewhere else in the NHL and recoup of draft pick in the process. But with Raddysh and Katchouk having not played in the NHL at all, there’s still a very good chance that they could pass through waivers. Same with Stephens since he doesn’t have a lot of NHL experience, or upside as more than a fourth line center.