Meszaros, Lightning Finalize Deal
By Erik Erlendsson | Tribune StaffTAMPA - Andrej Meszaros worked out this summer while working through some nervous anxiousness.
Published: August 31, 2008
Published: August 31, 2008
The 22-year-old defenseman didn't quite know when - or if - he would be leaving his native Slovakia. But following a summer of stalled negotiations with the Ottawa Senators, the team that selected him with the 23rd pick in the 2004 draft, Meszaros now has the security of a six-year deal he signed with Tampa Bay on Saturday.
One day after Meszaros was acquired from Ottawa in a deal for defensemen Filip Kuba and Alex Picard along with a 2009 first-round pick, the Lightning reached terms with their newest acquisition that will pay $24 million over six years.
The back-loaded contract will pay the 6-foot-2, 218-pound defenseman $2.5 million next season, $3.25 million in 2009-10, $4 million in 2010-11 and 2011-12, $4.75 million in 2012-13 and $5.5 million in 2013-14.
Though Meszaros said remaining in Ottawa had been his priority throughout the negotiation process, he said by phone from Slovakia that he is looking forward to a new start.
"Things didn't work out with Ottawa, but I'm really happy with the way things ended up," he said. "I'm very excited to go to Tampa and hopefully I'm going to do my job there and do everything I can to help them win a Stanley Cup."
During a conference call with reporters Friday night, Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray said he felt compelled to trade Meszaros after the player showed an unwillingness to sign a lower-term deal with the Senators.
"It got to the point where the dollars were just too much for us," Murray said. "We thought it was at a point where we weren't going to be able to do it. I wasn't able to make the adjustment with my salary structure."
Although Murray said that Meszaros' game left a lot to be desired the past two seasons, Meszaros can bring a solid two-way game to the table. He possesses an above-average offensive game and likely will get the first crack, along with Matt Carle, who was acquired from San Jose in July, at working a point position on what should be a dangerous Lightning power play.
In his first three seasons, Meszaros had 26 goals, 11 on the power play, while also seeing time on the penalty-kill unit.
"He's played with similar players to what we have, having worked with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, and we think he is great fit for our club," Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. "We feel he is an elite guy immediately for us and we think he is only going to get better."
If training camp opened today, Meszaros would be the team's most experienced defenseman with 242 games, in addition to 34 playoff games, which came as a surprise when it was mentioned to him.
"I'm still young, I'm still learning and I know I can improve a lot on everything," he said. "So this is going to be a great new challenge. Tampa Bay is my new home now and I'm really excited to go there."
Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.