Tampa Bay Lightning sign Austin Watson to professional tryout contract


The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Austin Watson to a professional tryout contract. Watson has been a member of the Ottawa Senators organisation for the past three seasons. He became a free agent after his three-year $4.5 million contract expired July 1st. During the 2022-23 season he was a mainstay on the Senators’ bottom-six. He scored nine goals and 11 points in 75 games, which was the most games he played in a single season since 2017-18.

With Austin Watson, the Lightning know what they’re getting. He’s a ferocious competitor, throws his body around, plays solid defence and penalty killing, has a decent shot but can’t do much else in the offensive zone. And his skating would place him near the bottom of the league in that category. He’s perfect for a sheltered bottom-six role as a guy who can stir the pot every now and then.

At 31 years old, Watson still has a fair amount left in the tank and could help the Lightning become a tougher team. He’s also a great guy in the locker room and an inspiration wherever he goes due to his public battle against alcoholism.

Watson was originally an 18th overall pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2010 NHL Draft. In hindsight it seems odd that the Predators used a high pick on a career bottom-six player over the likes of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Kevin Hayes, and Justin Faulk, who were all drafted lower than Watson. They thought he had potential to be a solid power forward in the NHL. That never happened but he did carve out a nice career for himself nonetheless.

Over his nine-year NHL career, Watson has played 482 games between the Predators and Senators and scored 58 goals and 114 points over that span. He also notched 612 penalty minutes and a combined -5 rating in his career.


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