Smaby Deal: "as early as this weekend"

Matt Smaby was one of the bright spots on a hideous Tampa Bay Lightning defense last season. Not only did he play 43 games (only three defebseneb played more) but many of them were also played with a bone fracture in his foot. Matt was a -11 and had only 4 points, but the 24 year old was still solid when you consider the 24 year old was thrust into more playing time as injuries mounted on the Lightning blue-line.

Smaby filed for arbitration earlier this month and his hearing is this next week and negotiations are ongoing with the team.  Both his agent and Lightning GM Brian Lawton are optimistic:

"No deal yet, but we are moving forward and there is some common ground that we agree upon,’’ (Ben) Hankinson [Smaby's Agent] said in an email Monday.

Lawton shared the optimism.

"We are making progress and hope to have it completed before [arbitration] next week,’’ Lawton said in an email. "Maybe as early as this weekend.’’

Smaby faces a challenge as it stands right now to make the Lightning roster out of camp in September. With the additions of Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker, Kurtis Foster and Victor Hedman as well as the returning-from-injury-shortened-seasons Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger the battle to make the Lightning roster will be fierce for those (like Smaby) on the bubble.

Brian Lawton had been reported to have said the Bolts plan on keeping eight defensemen on the roster, and after the injury-plagued season last year, I would think this would be to keep a steady rotation between the hurting and the healthy. But knowing the Bolts still need depth at forward and their assets are blue-line players such as Smaby, Mike Lundin, Vlad Mihalik and Matt Lashoff, nothing is certain regarding who is going to be playing for the big club, for Norfolk, or elsewhere next season.