The coffee must be good in Tampa Bay today, as Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois has announced his third signing of the day. Per the team, the Lightning have signed Norwegian defenseman Emil Martinsen Lilleberg to a two-year, two-way contract.
Lilleberg was part of the Arizona Coyotes organization until four days ago, when the team let his exclusive draft rights expire by not signing him to an entry-level contract. Arizona drafted Lilleberg with the 107th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
The 22-year-old left-shot defender was drafted out of Norway’s top league, a rarity among an already rare class of Norwegian nationals. Since his draft year, though, he’s made the move to the more competitive SHL, playing the last two seasons with IK Oskarshamn.
Lilleberg recently committed to SHL club Växjö Lakers HC for the 2023-24 season, so it remains to be seen whether Tampa Bay will loan him there for the first year of his contract. While he may still have some upside, he won’t be ready to see NHL ice in any event next year.
He’s represented Norway at the highest possible level of international competition for six straight years, including three World Championships, two U20 World Juniors, and two U18 World Juniors. Last year with Oskarshamn, Lilleberg recorded three goals and 11 points in 46 games, along with a -4 rating.
If he does come to North America next year, he’ll be headed to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.