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Signing Carle strengthens Lightning's defense

The SportsXchange

The Tampa Bay Lightning finished off their summer shopping by landing one of the big names in the free agent market -- defenseman Matt Carle.

Hours after Ryan Suter -- the top defenseman available in free agency -- signed a deal to go to the Minnesota Wild, the Lightning quickly zeroed in on Carle, signing the 27-year-old to a six-year contract worth $33 million. Combined with the earlier signing of free agent defenseman Sami Salo, the Lightning landed a pair of top-four defensemen to help out their struggling blue line.

The signing of Carle came four years to the day after he was acquired by Tampa Bay from San Jose in a trade that sent Dan Boyle to the Sharks in 2008. Carle only appeared in 12 games for Tampa Bay that season before being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in a move to reduce salary.

Many believed Carle was the second best defenseman available on the free agent market.

"I'm really excited. The organization has done a complete 180 degree since I was there the last time, and it starts at the top with ownership and management with (general manager) Steve Yzerman," Carle said. "It seems like they have pretty much the same core with a lot of new pieces and I can't wait to be a part of it for the next six years."

Yzerman had to alter his plans to be able to sign Carle to a contract. After being scheduled to join staff members and prospect camp attendees at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, Yzerman stayed behind once the Suter signing came down. The effort paid off hours later when Carle agreed to a deal.

"He's in the prime of his career, and we've watched him closely. He's done well," Yzerman said. "We are comfortable with him in our top four, he can play in all situations and he takes pressure off some of our younger guys. We are happy with our depth now ... we like how we have improved our size (adding Salo), our puck-moving ability and on our power play."
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