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Numbers Game: Lightning land defenceman Carle

Scott Cullen
7/5/2012 12:37:13 AM
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A valuable commodity on the free agent market after the top players signed, Matt Carle secured a lucrative deal from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Numbers Game looks at Tampa Bay's defensive acquisition.

The Lightning Get: D Matt Carle.

Carle, 27, played a dozen games for the Lightning at the start of the 2008-2009 season, before he was traded to Philadelphia and now makes his return as a more complete defenceman.

Over the last three seasons in Philadelphia, Carle has been durable, playing nearly 23 minutes per game and missing a total of two games. His 113 points in that time ranks 22nd among all defencemen and his plus-53 rating is tied for fourth.

Of course, part of the reason for Carle's success was that he was primarily paired with future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, at least until concussion woes knocked Pronger out of action early last season. Even without Pronger, Carle handled a significant role, leading the Flyers in ice time at 23:01 per game.

In Tampa Bay, Carle will continue to log top-four minutes and could find a more substantial power play role on a relatively thin Lightning blueline. He's scored at least 35 points four times in six NHL seasons, so that seems a reasonable expectation for his production in Tampa Bay.

Signed for six years and $33-million, Carle was the top free agent defenceman remaining after Ryan Suter signed with Minnesota earlier in the day, which gave him enough leverage to get what is, to this point, the third-most valuable free agent contract.

While the Flyers apparently wanted to re-sign Carle, they can adequately fill out their defence corps in his absence, with Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Nicklas Grossman and Luke Schenn in the top five spots. From that group, Schenn may be the one (barring any additional moves by the Flyers) with the best opportunity to increase his role substantially in Carle's absence.

The Lightning defence hasn't been a strong suit in recent seasons, so it's understandable that Tampa Bay was willing to pay the price to get a proven top-four defenceman. They paid a premium to get the deal done, but that's how unrestricted free agents are signed, so while it's unlikely that Carle's production will justify those dollars over the life of the deal, the Lightning can be commended for addressing an area of need, improving their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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