When the Lightning aren’t signing three defensemen to fill out their depth chart, they’re doing something they haven’t done since 2008. The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they’ve reached a very logical affiliate agreement with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. Damian Cristodero shares the news.
The Everblades, founded in 1998 and a former affiliate of the Hurricanes, have made 12 straight playoff appearances and became the first ECHL team to make back-to-back appearances in the Kelly Cup final in 2004 and 2005. The Everblades had the best regular-season record in the ECHL in 1998-99 and 2008-09. The team has averaged 6,288 fans at home games in its history.
“That is exactly the type of winning environment our players should develop in,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in a release.
Tampa Bay will provide players under both AHL and NHL contracts, the team announced. The Lightning has not had an ECHL affiliate since the Augusta Lynx ceased operations in December 2008.
Having depth all through an organization is a big deal, and for the Lightning to rejoin the ECHL world of development helps them out. The added upside to this is that if you’re going to help market a Florida team to Florida fans, having a minor league team in Florida goes a long way towards growing the brand and let’s face it, after Oren Koules and Len Barrie helped salt the earth for hockey’s interest in Florida, repairing that structure even at the most basic professional level will help that out.