In an offseason that has been fairly quiet until recently, the Tampa Bay Lightning made their first move around noon on Wednesday, June 28.
First reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Twitter, the Lightning have traded forward Ross Colton to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2023 second round draft pick (37th overall).
A restricted free agent this summer, general manager Julien Brisebois made this move to free up some cap space. With that, he expects to be able to get one of Tanner Jeannot, or Alex Killorn re-signed. There’s an outside chance both can be re-signed, though that’s probably a long shot.
Colton, 26, was drafted in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He made his debut early in the shortened 56 game 2020-21’ season, scoring a goal on his first shot in a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
He then followed that up by scoring the biggest goal of his career to date. On July 7, 2021, Colton received a pass from trade deadline acquisition David Savard and buried the puck past Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. That stood as the game winner, as the Lightning captured their second straight Stanley Cup.
In the 2021-22’ season, Colton scored 22 goals and had 39 points in 79 games played. He was fairly responsible in his own end as well, with a plus-4 rating.
The second round of the playoffs were where he shined, though, taking a perfect pass from Nikita Kucherov behind the net and beating Sergei Bobrovsky with mere seconds left to give the Lightning a 2-1 win and 2-0 series lead. They went on to sweep the Florida Panthers in four games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Last season, Colton struggled a bit while playing on the third line. He still scored 16 goals and 32 points, but his minus-8 rating left room for improvement.
With Colton out, prospects Cole Koepke and Gabriel Fortier have a chance to finally crack the Lightning lineup. The team loses a clutch player with room to grow, though, which could be a big blow to the Bolts going forward.
In saying that, the Avalanche get a great player who can play anywhere in the lineup for a draft pick that originally belonged to Montreal and was traded to Colorado on June 27, 2023.
Lightning nation wants to thank Ross Colton for all the memories. Best of luck in the Mile High city!