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Tampa Bay Lightning sign defenseman Sami Salo, plus other moves from day one of 2012 NHL free agency

There was a lot of speculation and rhetoric as the hockey worlded waited patiently for the big-boys of the 2012 NHL free agent class to sign deals around the league. The waiting didn’t pay off in the end, as players like Ryan Suter, Matt Carle, and Zach Parise are still unsigned free agents.

The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t entirely idle though on their first day of free agency. While housekeeping signings of newly-acquired wing Benoit Pouliot, restricted free agent defenseman Evan Oberg and junior player Artem Sergeev, sent a few ripples through the waiting league, it was later in the afternoon when the Bolts took a noteworthy free agent’s name off the market.

Defenseman Sami Salo, whose career has been split between the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks, signed a two-year contract with the Lightning worth $3.75 million a season. Salo, 37, is expected to help provide a veteran presence (along with returning veteran Eric Brewer) on a Lightning defensive corps that’s getting younger.

Salo’s right-handed shot should also be expected to contribute a bit offensively. He’s scored 25 points or more in a season eight times in his 13 year NHL career.

That’s still a lot of money for a player who turns 38 on September 2nd and has a history of injuries. Still, the addition to the blue-line is welcome.

The Bolts, on top of their signings, lost a pair of AHL players today. Trevor Smith – who spent a brief stint in the NHL with the Lightning in 2011-12, and played the majority of the season with the Norfolk Admirals – signed a two-way contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Also departing the AHL squad is Mike Kostka. Kostka, who was acquired with Oberg from the Florida Panthers for James Wright last season, signed a two-way contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The irony of that deal being Kostka scored the (fluke) game winning goal of game 3 of the Calder Cup playoffs against the very team he’s likely to play for next season – The Toronto Marlines.

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