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Ryan Shannon signs with Lightning; A new Sean Bergenheim?

Jul 8, 2011, 1:26 AM EST

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Ottawa Senators v Florida Panthers Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the free agent market on Thursday as they signed speedy Ryan Shannon to a 1-year, $625,000 contract. Shannon is expected to immediately compete for a bottom six role on a team that was one game away from the Stanley Cup Final last year. What he lacks in size (he’s only 5’9”), he makes up for his elite level skating and a strong understanding of the game.

The Lightning will be Shannon’s fourth NHL team in the last five years. He bounced between the AHL, Ducks, Canucks, and Senators before he finally solidified his place in the NHL in 2009-10. His versatility was one of the major sales points for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman:

“”He can really skate. He’s a smart player. He’s got good skills and he can play any of the three forward positions, and his contract fits in with what we’re trying to do right now.”

Just take a quick look at their roster and it certainly looks like he’ll be filling the role Sean Bergenheim played a season ago. Last year, Yzerman and the Lightning signed Sean Bergenheim away from the New York Islanders with a 1-year, $700,00 contract offer. He rewarded the team’s optimism by scoring 29 points and playing solid two-way hockey on Tampa’s third line. More importantly, he caught fire in the playoffs as he netted 9 goals in only 16 games. For the first time in his career, he started to show the world why the Islanders used a first round pick on him back in 2002. He parlayed the breakout performance into a 4-year, $11 million contract from the Florida Panthers. But for one year, the Lightning got a tremendous bang-for-the-buck value.

This season they’ll hope to replicate their success with former-Senator Ryan Shannon. His 11 goals and 27 points are similar to Bergenheim’s regular season stats—albeit without the successful playoffs that lead to Bergenheim’s huge payday. Also like Bergenheim, he’s struggled to find his way in the NHL—but has the skill set to be a good depth player on a good team. The Lightning aren’t acquiring him to be a star forward that fills up the net; they’ll expect him to play good two-way hockey, get in on the forecheck, and play responsible hockey for head coach Guy Boucher. Shannon is excited to join the Lightning and show them what he can do:

“”The impression I got from playing against them and then watching them in the playoffs is like a boxer always hitting the body and then just pouncing on teams as the game went along,” Shannon said. “It’s a winning culture and to be part of that, there really is nothing better in the league. I think it’s a great fit the way they team plays.”

Sure, the Lightning would be pleasantly pleased if Ryan Shannon explodes in the playoffs like Bergenheim did this year. However, the main reason the Lightning are bringing Shannon into the fold is because he’s the right kind of player for their system. Like Bergenheim, he’s a very good skater who’s just a good hockey player. The Lightning hope he scores approximately 30 points like he did last season and be a dependable player that Guy Boucher can put on the ice in any situation.

If he can play responsible hockey for about 15 minutes per game, he’ll be a great acquisition for only $625,000 next year.

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