The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed center Vladislav Namestnikov to a one-year contract with a $2.5 million cap hit. Namestnikov was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut in 2013-14 with the Lightning and was a full-time member of the team by the 2015-16 season. Namestnikov played both center and wing during his time with the Lightning before being traded to the New York Rangers at the 2017-18 trade deadline in the deal that brought Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay.
Since leaving the Lightning, Namestnikov has bounced around first with the Rangers, then the Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, and Dallas Stars. He re-united with the general manager that drafted him, Steve Yzerman, when he signed with the Red Wings for the 2020-21 season. Last year, he recorded 13 goals and 25 points in 60 games for the Red Wings before being traded at the deadline to the Dallas Stars where he recorded three goals and five points in 15 games. He added a goal and an assist in seven playoff games.
When Namestnikov was traded from the Lightning, he was in the midst of his best NHL season scoring 20 goals and 44 points in 62 games, mostly playing on a top line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. He hasn’t quite recaptured that level of play since, but has been a very effective third line player that brings depth scoring, and that’s exactly what he’ll bring back to the Lightning.
Namestnikov has the flexibility to play center as well as both wings as a left-hander. He gives the Lightning a little more scoring punch on the third line to go with Ross Colton and Nick Paul or Brandon Hagel, as well as that flexibility to help out in the face-off dot. He’ll also be a possibility to play on the second power play unit. Over the past four seasons he’s become a contributor on the penalty kill as well, averaging around a minute and a half per game short handed.
He’s always been a pretty good two-way forward, and was known more as a playmaker than a shooter earlier in his career, but his goal scoring has been consistently in the teens and that’s the kind of offensive depth that a Stanley Cup contender needs in the line up. Plus, his familiarity with Jon Cooper and other forwards on the roster could lead to him playing up the line-up when there are injuries.
With Namestnikov signing for $2.5 million, that means the Lightning are pretty much done on the free agency front for the NHL roster. They’ll fill out their last spot or two on the roster with some young players on cheap contracts, though that could also be a veteran on a league minimum deal too, though that player would be the 13th forward. Unless they trade someone to open up some space and do something crazy, but I’m not expecting that at this point. All of the rest of the signings from here out should be for players that will be playing down in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch.
Honestly, I’m pretty excited about the return of Namestnikov, more for personal reasons than for hockey reasons. It’s just really cool for me to see a draft pick return to the team later in his career, especially considering his relationship with fellow countrymen Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy, but also with other players that were around during his last stint like Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, and Victor Hedman. Oh, and his last year was also Mikhail Sergachev’s rookie season.
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