The Tampa Bay Lightning have avoided arbitration with another one of their restricted free agents, as Joe Smith of The Athletic reports the team has agreed to a two-year contract with Cedric Paquette. The deal will carry a $1.65MM average annual value, and take him to unrestricted free agency in 2021. The team has also announced a one-year, two-way contract for Carter Verhaeghe, keeping the minor league star in the organization and avoiding arbitration.
Paquette, 25, was an underrated part of the Tampa Bay machine last season, scoring 13 goals while suiting up for a career-high 80 games. Though he only added four assists and averaged just 12 minutes of ice time, he locked down the team’s fourth-line center position, was a key penalty killer and easily led the club in hits with 269. There’s no reason to think he’ll ever be an offensive dynamo in the NHL, but the Lightning will be happy if he can continue to win faceoffs and provide his physical play during limited minutes. With J.T. Miller and Ryan Callahan gone this season, that type of grinding game will be appreciated even more.
Verhaeghe meanwhile is still trying to crack the NHL squad, but had about as good a minor league season as anyone last year. The 23-year old put up 34 goals and 82 points in 76 games to lead the AHL in both categories (tying his teammate Alex Barre-Boulet in goals) and should compete for a spot on the roster this fall. The former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is eligible for waivers and could be claimed if the Lightning try to send him back to the Syracuse Crunch once again.