Carle signs with the Lightning

Doyle Woody

The first time defenseman Matt Carle of Anchorage played for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and then left, neither was by choice -- the San Jose Sharks traded him to the Lightning and Tampa Bay soon shipped him to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Wednesday, Carle landed back with the Lightning by his decision -- the unrestricted free agent signed a six-year deal, according to the team.

Multiple media reports pegged Carle's deal at $33 million, an average of $5.5 million per season.

That's a significant raise for Carle, who last season for Philadelphia made $3.8 million in the last season of a four-year, $13.75 million deal he originally signed with the Sharks.

Carle, 27, was considered the second-best free-agent blueliner this summer behind Ryan Suter, who Wednesday signed with the Minnesota Wild. He is entering his seventh season in the NHL.

"I'm excited to be back,'' Carle said on Tampa Bay's Twitter account. "It was a hard decision. The organization is going in the right direction, and I'm happy to be a part of it.''

In Tampa Bay, Carle joins center Nate Thompson of Anchorage. Winger Tim Wallace of Anchorage finished last season with Tampa Bay and is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Carle is a former Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner as the best player in college hockey. He played three seasons for the University of Denver and won national championships as a freshman and sophomore.

In the NHL, the 6-foot, 205-pounder has proved a reliable defenseman with an offensive upside, and capable of playing big minutes.

Last season for the Flyers, he furnished 4-34--38 totals in 82 games -- that tied him for 20th in scoring among NHL defensemen -- and logged average ice time of 23 minutes per game.

In 471 career regular-season NHL games, Carle has generated 32-170--202 totals and a combined plus-minus rating of plus-55.

Carle's contract is the second-most lucrative signed by an Alaskan in the NHL. The biggest belongs to Montreal Canadiens center Scott Gomez of Anchorage, who is entering the sixth year of a seven-year, $51.5 million deal he signed with the New York Rangers.

Carle began his career for San Jose, which drafted him in the second round, 47th overall, in 2003. San Jose traded him to Tampa Bay in the summer of 2008. Then, just 12 games into the 2008-09 season, Tampa Bay traded Carle to Philadelphia, where he played four seasons.

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Anchorage Daily News