Lightning strike Matt Carle from free agency; Flyers defenseman signs 6-year deal

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Steve Yzerman is undoubtedly one of the most popular players in the history of the Detroit Red Wings. He's fast becoming their most unpopular rival general managers.

After outmaneuvering the Wings for free-agent defenseman Sami Salo earlier in the week, the Tampa Bay Lightning GM signed free-agent Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-year, $33-million deal, according to TSN's Darren Dreger and Steve Whyno of the Washington Times. The average cap hit is $5.5 million; Carle previous had a 4-year deal with an average hit of $3,437,500.

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The Red Wings were expected to be in the hunt for Carle after losing out on Ryan Suter earlier in on July 1. Yzerman was concerned that there might be a bidding war for Carle, as teams that missed out on Ryan Suter (who signed with Minnesota) turned their attention to the 27-year puck-moving D-man.

Instead, it was the Lightning that won he services for a cap hit slightly higher than that of Dennis Wideman, for a player that isn't nearly the defensive concern. (Carle, by the way, should send Wideman a Christmas card. Or maybe $20.)

From the Bolts:

Carle, 6-foot, 205 pounds, has played in 471 career NHL games with San Jose, Tampa Bay and the Philadelphia Flyers. He has amassed 32 goals, 202 points and 17 power-play goals with a plus-55 rating. Carle has played in 80 games or more in each of the previous three seasons, including all 82 the previous two. He has played in 84 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, recording five goals and 35 points. Carle has played in 45 playoff games during the previous three seasons, all with the Flyers. He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team during the 2006-07 season while with San Jose after a season in which he registered 11 goals and 42 points.

Yes indeed, the image above isn't a Photoshop — please recall Carle was traded by then then-Lightning GM Brian Lawton to the Flyers in Nov. 2008 with San Jose's 3rd round choice (Simon Bertilsson) in 2009 Entry Draft for Steve Eminger, Steve Downie and Tampa Bay's 4th round choice (Alex Hutchings) in 2009.

The trade came just over four months after Carle was a primary piece in the trade that sent Dan Boyle to the San Jose Sharks. He played 12 games in Tampa before getting shipped out.

"I'm excited to be back. It was a hard decision. The organization is going in the right direction, and I'm happy to be a part of it," said Carle via the Lightning.

The Lightning now have eight defensemen under contract including Mattias Ohlund, who is recovering from major knee surgery. They have 21 players under contract and are around $9.7 million under the cap. The Bolts have five players making more than $3.5 million on their blue line, playing in front of goaltending (Mathieu Garon and Andres Lindback) that, combined, might make less than $4 million.

High priced defense in front of low priced goaltending?

Once a Red Wing, always a Red Wing for Steve Yzerman.

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