The Lightning bolted to action today when the free agent market opened up, becoming the first team to jump to the check-out line and signing defenseman Mattias Ohlund to a seven-year contract worth $26.25 million.
Ohlund, 32, had spent his entire career with the Vancouver Canucks after he was selected 13th overall in the 1994 draft. A veteran of 770 games, Ohlund brings a solid two-way game to the Tampa Bay blue line.
"What a lot of people may not realize about Mattias is he is a shutdown guy, somebody you can play against other team's top lines, and he can supply some offense - he's physical, but he's also someone who can skate and pass,'' Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said.
If Tampa Bay had one player on its wish list during free agency, Ohlund might have been the guy. Not only does he provide the Lightning with a veteran defenseman capable of logging top-two minutes on both the power play and penalty kill, as a native of Pitea, Sweden, he will be able to full a mentor-type role to No. 2 overall draft pick and fellow Swede defenseman Victor Hedman.
"When you have a checklist of things you are looking for, you look at the power play, the penalty kill, he's a shutdown guy, he's worked with younger players, he's a fellow countrymate of Victor Hedman, he's the whole checklist, it's not just three of the five [categories],'' Tocchet said. "He's a good locker room guy.''
The signing of Ohlund was also a hit with NHL analyst Pierre Maguire, who called the move the best thing Tampa Bay has done since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
"If you are a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning right now, where last year you had guys throwing darts and playing rotisserie league hockey, now you have constructive management in position,'' Maguire said on TSN television. "Well done, Tampa.''
Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said the team was "thrilled'' to be able to get Ohlund under contract.
"With so many options in front of him, having him elect to play in Tampa demonstrates the faith he has in our team's strategy and vision for success, which should be exciting for our fans,'' Lawton said in a statement. "This signing accomplished two primary goals for us. First, we have added the top-two defenseman we coveted to lead our blue line and second, we have found a leader and a mentor for Victor Hedman as he prepares to play in the NHL this fall.''