Not content with his acquisition of goaltender Dwayne Roloson earlier in the week, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made an additional move to shore up his team’s back end, today signing free agent defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron to a one-year, two-way contract.
I like Bergeron. I’ve liked Bergeron since his first NHL cameo, with the Edmonton Oilers back in 2002-03. I think he’s a quality NHL player, albeit one with some weaknesses, and thus I like this signing – it never hurts to have another competent NHL defenceman stashed further down the depth chart.
Let’s think about Bergeron’s strengths. Marc-Andre Bergeron is a fantastic power-play point man. He has been for years. However, Tampa Bay actually has a pretty good power play – their 23.1% efficiency rating currently ranks fourth in the league – and a pretty good top option in Brett Clark (ranked 14th among NHL defencemen with 12 power play points). Behind Clark, though, things get sparse in a hurry. Clark has averaged 5.51 PTS/60 over 130 minutes on the power play; defencemen other than Clark have played just over 216 minutes and averaged just 1.11 PTS/60. In short: Clark has been five times as effective as the average Lightning defenceman while on the man advantage. None of the other options – primarily Pavel Kubina and Victor Hedman – has put up more than two points on the power play. Bergeron provides Tampa Bay with another option for offence from the blue line, and a probable anchor for the second unit. He also serves as insurance for Clark – something the Lightning simply haven’t had this season.
Bergeron’s also offence-minded at even-strength, though the Lightning haven’t had many problems in that department. Hedman and Kubina have had remarkably good years while playing 5-on-5, as has Randy Jones. Still, it’s never exactly a bad thing to have another guy who can contribute.
Beyond the offence, Bergeron’s defensive abilities tend to be unfairly tarnished, mostly because he’s occasionally prone to high-visibility gaffes. However, the occasional blooper notwithstanding, Bergeron has a competent defensive game; something aided by his ability to get the puck out of his own end with haste. He’ll be a fine addition to the bottom of the Lightning’s NHL depth chart.