The offseason has officially begun for Steve Yzerman, and so begins year two of his rebuild of the Tampa Bay Lightning. All he did in year one was build a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and which lost in a Game 7 to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
Well one of the first things that Yzerman checked off his list was the need to re-sign defenseman Eric Brewer.
The team inked Brewer to a four-year contract on Friday.
“We are very pleased to get Eric re-signed today,” Yzerman said in a statement released by the club. “He was an important part of our team after being acquired at last year’s deadline and he played a key role in the playoffs both on and off the ice.”
“I’m happy to be a part of the Lightning going forward,” Brewer said. “The organization is clearly moving in the right direction and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Brewer, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, spent the majority of last season with the St. Louis Blues before skating in 22 games with Tampa Bay, where he notched a goal and an assist. He also led the Lightning in average ice time per game with 21:34. Overall in 2010-11, Brewer recorded a career-high nine goals and also amassed 81 penalty minutes, good for the second-highest total of his career. He helped lead the Bolts to the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four seasons, where he set a career-high with three points in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and ranked third among all postseason skaters with 51 blocked shots.
A native of Vernon, British Columbia, Brewer served as captain of the Blues since the 2007-08 season prior to being acquired by the Lightning. He is a veteran of 758 career NHL games, amassing 65 goals and 210 points. He has also appeared in 30 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, including a career-high 18 contests with Tampa Bay in 2010-11, registering three goals and 17 points.
Brewer has also excelled on the international stage, representing Team Canada in multiple tournaments. He won his third gold medal at the 2007 World Championships after also earning the competition’s top prize in consecutive years at the 2003 and 2004 tournaments, respectively, and captured gold at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Brewer also served an integral role in Team Canada’s run to the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, notching a pair of goals, including one game-winner, in six games played.
Brewer was originally selected by the New York Islanders in the first round, fifth overall, at the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired by the Lightning from St. Louis in exchange for defenseman Brock Beukeboom and a third-round draft choice in 2011 on February 18, 2011.
The next major item this off season for Yzerman is getting superstar Steven Stamkos under contract. Stamkos is a restricted free agent this year, after he completed his rookie entry contract at the conclusion of the season. Word from both camps is that things are progressing and both parties are anxious to get the deal done so you can expect Yzerman to make this deal happen before July 1st to prevent another team from making a high offer to Stamkos that Yzerman would be forced to match if he wants to keep his superstar sniper.
Its going to be a challenge for the Lightning to get all its pieces put back in place in free agency but signing Brewer and Stamkos are the best place to start as the team moves forward in the offseason.