The Tampa Bay Lightning had been the class of the NHL for a while, but it's getting harder and harder to maintain that dominance. After three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances, the Lightning were a first-round exit at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs this time around.
This offseason was always going to be tough for the Lightning, even if they made another deep run. As usual, Tampa Bay had next to no cap space to work with and some difficult decisions to make. The Lightning had to say some hard goodbyes this offseason, with Alex Killorn, Ian Cole and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare leaving in free agency, as well as Ross Colton and Patrick Maroon through trade.
However, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Bolts this offseason. They at least managed to sign a few players, and their cap situation is a bit better with the cap projected to go up substantially next summer. With these few bright spots, the Bolts now must prove that they can still contend for a title with a drastically different roster.
With that said, let's go through each of Tampa Bay's free agency signings and assign each a grade.
LW Connor Sheary: 3 years, $6 million ($2 million AAV)
In the context of the Lightning's modest free agency moves, Sheary could be considered the “big-fish” signing. He's the only one to sign for more than $1 million a year, and he's easily the most high-profile player of the bunch.
Sheary, 31, has spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins (in two separate stints), the Buffalo Sabres and most recently the Washington Capitals. He's a solid middle-six forward, usually scoring around 15 goals and 35 points a season. This past season with Washington, Sheary scored 15 goals and 37 points while spending some time on the power play and penalty kill.
The Lightning needed some extra depth this offseason, and Sheary is a solid pickup. He's not the most physical player out there, but if he can put up a good amount of points, this signing should work well for both sides.
C Luke Glendening: 2 years, $1.6 million ($800,000 AAV)
Glendening, 34, is the epitome of a fourth-line, grind-it-out center. He has little offensive upside, but makes up for it by winning a ton of face-offs and spending plenty of time on the penalty kill.
His stats from last season reflect this. In 70 games with the Dallas Stars, Glendening had just three goals and six points, but won 59 percent of his face-offs and was a solid shut-down option.
Glendening is almost certainly going to fill the role that Bellemare has held for last two years: the fourth-line, defensive-minded, penalty-killing center. He has shown himself to be quite effective in such a role, and any points he adds are merely a bonus. With how off Tampa Bay's defense looked throughout last season, this signing was a necessary one.
RW Josh Archibald: 2 years, $1.6 million ($800,000 AAV)
Another fourth-line forward, Archibald has bounced around the league quite a bit. He began his career with the Penguins, spent time with the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers, then went back to Pittsburgh last offseason. In his return to Pittsburgh last season, the 30-year-old forward had six goals and 12 points while playing about 10 minutes a night.
Obviously, the Lightning didn't bring in Archibald to light up the scoresheet. Instead, they brought him in to shore up the depth on the fourth line, likely alongside Glendening. For that purpose, this signing is OK, but not the most impressive.
D Calvin de Haan: 1 year, $775,000
De Haan, a former member of the New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes, is another depth player who will play further down in the lineup. The Lightning lost their third-pairing left defenseman in Cole, so de Haan is a natural fit to take his place.
In 53 games with Carolina last season, de Haan, 32, had two goals and 12 points while playing 13:32 a night. However, he was relegated to a seventh defenseman after the Hurricanes acquired Shayne Gostisbehere and did not suit up in the playoffs. He should be serviceable as a bottom-pairing defenseman, but don't expect much more.
C Logan Brown: 1 year, $775,000
Brown is a former No. 11 overall pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2016 but has struggled to find a consistent NHL role. His record for most games played in a single season is just 39, and his best scoring season came in 2021-22, when he had four goals and 11 points for the St. Louis Blues.
Brown is somewhat of a reclamation project for the Bolts, which is not something they usually partake in. It would be nice to see Brown live up to his draft pedigree, but that may be a pipe dream.
G Jonas Johansson: 2 years, $1.55 million ($775,000 AAV)
Grading Johansson's deal largely comes down to how the Lightning plan to use him. If he's the No. 3 goalie primarily in the AHL, then this should be a perfectly fine signing. If he's the primary backup behind Andrei Vasilevsky, though, then that could be problematic.
Johansson, 27, has struggled to find his footing in the NHL. He has played with the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche, but his career save percentage of .886 and goals against average of 3.35 don't exactly inspire confidence. He did have a .932 save percentage and 2.10 goals against average with Colorado last season, but that was only in two starts with three appearances.
The Lightning need a capable backup in order to keep Vasilevsky fresh for the postseason, and Johansson hasn't shown he can be that guy yet.