The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed minor league defenseman Ben Thomas to a one-year, two-way contract. Thomas was not eligible for salary arbitration and will still be a restricted free agent when the deal expires.
Thomas, 23, was a fourth round pick of the Lightning back in 2014 and has spent the last several years in the minor leagues. In 247 games with the Syracuse Crunch he has 76 points and is an important part of their blueline. It’s hard to imagine that he spends much time in the NHL this season, but there may be more opportunity there than in recent years.
Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman were both not retained by the Lightning this offseason, though the team has since brought back Luke Witkowski and signed Luke Schenn as depth options. Still, there will be spots opening before long as there isn’t a clear plan outside of the top-four past this season. Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh are signed long-term, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak are under team control for several more seasons, but other than that there will be competition in Tampa Bay after this season. While Thomas would need to take a healthy step forward in his development to really take a shot at one of those NHL spots, he’s still young enough to have some upside left. This year will be an important one for him to try and get that first taste of NHL action at some point.