The Tampa Bay Lightning wasted little time signing players at the start of free agency, but that activity didn't involve the player most fans hoped for.
Tampa Bay inked three players early in free agency: goaltender Mathieu Garon, former Lightning forward Michel Ouellet and 2010 top draft pick Brett Connolly.
As of 1:30 p.m., however, star center Steven Stamkos had yet to sign a contract and was on the restricted free agent market, although Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was in Toronto meeting with Stamkos' representatives.
Garon, meanwhile, agreed to a two-year contract, Yzerman confirmed on Friday. The deal has a salary cap value of $1.3 million per season, according to TSN television. Garon was a teammate of Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson when the two were in Edmonton.
Garon, 33, spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, compiling a 10-14-6 record with 2.72 goals against average and .901 save percentage. A 10-year NHL veteran drafted in the second round by Montreal in 1996, Garon has appeared in 275 career games with five teams, compiling a 116-106-25 record with a 2.82 goals against average.
His best season came with Edmonton in 2007-08, when he appeared in 47 games and posted a 26-18-1 record with a 2.66 goals against average and .913 save percentage.
"I think they have a good team and watching their playoff run, they have good players and they really want to win,'' Garon told TSN. "My main point was looking for some place to win, and certainly joining Steve Yzerman is always a good thing.''
Tampa Bay also announced the signing of Connolly, a right wing drafted sixth overall in 2010, to a standard three-year entry level contract. The deal was signed weeks ago, but did not become official until Friday when it was filed with NHL Central Registry.
Connolly, 19, scored 46 goals in 59 games with Prince George of the Western Hockey League last season and was a member of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. He has one year of junior eligibility left and, if he does not make the team out of training camp in September, would return to juniors. In that event, his three-year contract would slide to the next season.
Ouellet, who played with Tampa Bay in 2007-08 and scored 17 goals and 36 points in 64 games, signed a one-year, two-way contract. Ouellet, a right wing, spent the past two seasons in Europe playing in Swtizerland and Germany. The 29-year old has 52 goals in 190 career game.