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Matt Carle signs six-year contract with Tampa Bay Lightning

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

When Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild it left Matt Carle as the best free agent defenseman remaining on the market.

As of Wednesday evening, he's no longer on the market.

And as should have been expected he was able to take advantage of a thin market and cash in with a rather large contract, agreeing to terms with the Tampa Bay Lightning on a six-year contract.

The deal is worth $33 million, which gives it an annual salary cap hit of $5.5 million per year.

Given the lack of impact players available this summer at the position, the number of teams searching for defense, and what players like Dennis Wideman and Jason Garrison were able to get, that seems about right where Carle should have been expected in terms of an average annual salary.

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He appeared in all 82 games for the Flyers this past season and scored four goals to go with 34 assists. Along with that he also had decent underlying numbers, playing against reasonably tough competition while still being able to help push the play up the ice. He's prone to the occassional turnover, but he's still a solid addition for the Lightning even if you consider his contract a slight overpay (and that will always happen when teams dip into free agency in a desperate attempt to fill needs).

This will be Carle's second stop with the Lightning as he previously spent time with the team during the 2008-09 season when he was acquired in the trade that sent defenseman Dan Boyle to San Jose.

The single biggest problem for the Lightning last season was their inability to prevent goals. They attempted to address that earlier in the offseason by sending a nice package of draft picks to Nashville for goaltender Anders Lindback.

The addition of Carle should help to improve a defense that's currently anchored by Victor Hedman (a young star in the making).

Tampa Bay also added veteran Sami Salo earlier in free agency.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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