Report: Lightning, Matt Carle “closing in” on deal

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After a surprisingly successful first season with GM Steve Yzerman and head coach Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay, the Lightning didn’t just regress in 2011-12. They basically hit a brick wall. The two main culprits were poor defense and lax goaltending, but it looks like Yzerman is taking great lengths to fix both problems. Darren Dreger passes along what might be the splashiest move yet: the Lightning are reportedly “closing in” on a deal with free agent blueliner Matt Carle.

Obviously, “closing in on” and actually signing a contract are two very different things, but it fill a need for the Bolts. The timing also makes sense since the Ryan Suter sweepstakes finally ended.

If Carle was in the mix, the Bolts’ defense would look a lot more impressive. Even with Mattias Ohlund’s career in jeopardy and 2012-13 season essentially over, the blueline should provide better protection for Anders Lindback than what Dwayne Roloson saw last year. Carle would join new addition Sami Salo along with guys like Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman for an improved corps.

Carle has hovered around the 35-40 point range for the last three seasons and many believe his defense is underrated. He averaged 23:01 minutes per game for the Philadelphia Flyers last season and ranks as the most interesting remaining FA defenseman.

Interestingly enough, he’s also marginally familiar to Tampa Bay. He played 12 games with the Bolts in 2008-09 before being traded to Philly in a Steve Downie trade.

We’ll see if he gets a lengthier reunion with the Lightning or if another team – perhaps his current one in Philly? – ends up closing the deal. In the mean time, let me ask: would Carle (and the other tweaks) make the Lightning a contender again?