A little more than a week after general manager Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out their captain, Vincent Lecavalier, the club has found the man who they believe to be Vinny’s replacement on the second line.
On Friday, the Bolts signed former Detroit Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula to a five-year, $25 million deal. Yzerman said that Filppula, 29, was the Lightning’s main free agent target this offseason.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Finn is coming off a down year in which he tallied just nine goals and 17 points in 41 games. He missed the remaining seven games due to a shoulder injury and missed many practices due to an MCL sprain in his right knee sustained while playing in Finland during the lockout.
“It was definitely a rough start, definitely not the start I wanted,” said Filppula. “Never at the start of the season do you want to have an injury. But during the end, even though the stats never really came, I felt I was playing better.”
Yzerman is confident, now that Filppula’s knee is fully healed, that he can have a return to form and replicate his 23 goals and 43 assists from 2011-2012.
“It was a funny year, coming out of the lockout, short season,” Yzerman said. “I believe, generally, things average themselves out over the course of an 82-game season, so I’m not worried about his production from (last) year. His work ethic, his commitment to fitness is at an extremely high level. He works hard, knows his role. We’re getting a real professional here.”
Filppula won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs last season, and he was fourth among Red Wings forwards with 17:46 of average ice time. The highlight of his season was the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against the Anaheim Ducks.
“He’s just a well-rounded player,” said Yzerman. “We didn’t just sign him for point production. Our team can score goals. I like the rest of his game. He’s good defensively, good on faceoffs and a good skater. He really fits what we’re trying to do here.”
- The Lightning’s No. 3 overall draft pick from Sunday’s draft, Jonathan Drouin, was signed Friday to a three-year entry-level deal that pays $925,000 a season with the opportunity for an additional $2.3 million in annual performance bonuses.
- The Lightning signed right wing Geoff Walker, who had 20 points in 51 games for AHL Lake Erie last season, to a one-year, two-way contract.
- Yzerman says Filppula’s signing will be the last in free agency for Tampa Bay and added that he isn’t looking to make any deals. “We’re not out there actively pursuing (them),” he said, “but we will certainly look at any option that makes us a better team.”