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Numbers Game: Lightning Bolster Blueline

Scott Cullen
7/13/2010 4:51:53 PM
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Defence has not been a strong suit of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that could be changing as two veteran free agents will improve their blueline significantly.

Numbers Game examines a pair of Tampa Bay free agent defence additions.

The Lightning Get: D Pavel Kubina and D Brett Clark.

Kubina, 33, has been maligned at times in his career for sloppy play, but there aren't many defencemen who provide the size and skill mix that Kubina has.  The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder plays 21-23 minutes a night, and had an even plus-minus with the Trashers in 2009-2010 despite leading the team in ice time and playing against the opposition's top lines.

He's tallied at least 35 points in five of the last six seasons and figures to be the most logical power play replacment for the departed Kurtis Foster in Tampa Bay.  While Kubina wasn't a big power play performer last season (his 27 even-strength points tied for ninth in the league among defencemen), but he has recorded at least 15 power play points five times in his 11-year NHL career.

Kubina's arrival should help ease the workload on veteran Mattias Ohlund and promising youngster Victor Hedman, both of whom were overmatched at times last season.  With someone around to handle top-pair minutes, Ohlund can play more of a supporting role while Hedman should be expected to improve in his second NHL season.

While Atlanta might have liked to have Kubina return, once they added Brent Sopel from the Blackhawks, that gave them five defencemen counting at least $2-million against the cap, so there wasn't realistically room.

Signed for two years and $7.7-million, Kubina is a reasonable short-term investment for the Lightning and gives the team a chance to be more competitive right away.

Clark, also 33, had his role reduced in Colorado last season, playing a hair over 19 minutes per game after playing more than 22 minutes per game for three years running.  He was a healthy scratch at times, so a fresh start makes sense for the shot-blocking veteran. 

Though he played only 64 games in 2009-2010, Clark still ranked 11th in the league with 162 blocked shots, the fourth straight season in which he finished in the Top 20, with his per-game numbers consistently ranking among the best in the league in that time.

A plus player in three of the last four seasons, Clark ought to provide a safe and steady defensive conscience for the Lightning, with the ability to kill penalties thrown into the mix.

Signed for $3.2-million over the next two seasons, Clark is, like Kubina, a wise short-term investment that will help the team immediately; maybe not much, but they're better with a proven no-frills veteran like Clark than they would be otherwise.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.




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