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Coburn: 'This has become home'

The veteran defenseman re-signs with the Bolts for two more seasons

by Bryan Burns /

When Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois called Braydon Coburn late last week about the possibility of extending his stay with the Bolts for a couple more seasons, the unrestricted free agent was immediately receptive.

Coburn and his wife Nadine discussed the opportunity over the weekend. On Monday, Coburn's agent contacted BriseBois in hopes of hammering out a new deal.

A day later, the Lightning announced the 34-year-old veteran defenseman would be back with the team for the next two seasons at a value of $1.7 million a year, a bargain for the Bolts considering the average annual value of his new deal is less than half the amount of his expired contract, a three-year deal worth $3.7 million per season.

The rapidity in which Coburn's new contract was completed reflected the eagerness of Coburn and his family to remain in Tampa with the Lightning.

Tweet from @TBLightning: A message from the Coburns! 👨���👧���👦

"Just being part of this team and this organization, it's been an honor since I've got here," Coburn said during a media conference call minutes after the new deal was announced. "I just really felt like this has become home for us. We love Tampa and we kind of love everything that it encompasses. We feel like we have an unbelievable team here and I want to be a part of it. I feel like there's some unfinished business, and I really wanted to be a part of that."

Statistically, Coburn is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and certainly his best during his tenure with Tampa Bay. He skated in 74 games for the Lightning in 2018-19 - he's played at least 72 games in every one of his four full seasons with the Bolts - and recorded four goals, 19 assists and 23 points, his point and assist totals the highest he's ever registered as a Bolt. His 23 points, in fact, were the most he's put up since tallying 24 points for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 and was the fourth-highest point total of his 14-year career.

Coburn had a renaissance of sorts during the 2017-18 season, playing some of his finest hockey in a Bolts sweater as the regular season progressed into the postseason, where he was a key contributor on Tampa Bay's run to the Eastern Conference Final. That rebirth continued the following season as he remained a dependable third-pairing defenseman and a valuable member of a Bolts blueline that allowed just 2.70 goals per game, tied for seventh fewest in the NHL.

Coburn played his 900th career NHL game February 9, a career that started in Atlanta with the Thrashers, the team that selected him with the eighth overall pick at the 2003 draft, and continued over parts of nine seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers until he was traded to Tampa Bay on March 2, 2015. 

Coburn is currently sitting at 924 games played and could reach 1,000 toward the end of the upcoming season.

"For me, I'm just looking on making sure that next year is my best year of my career," said Coburn, who credits researching and implementing different offseason training modules and skating sessions each year for his evolving game. "That's my goal and that's what I wake up every day thinking about is making sure that I'm making myself better for the next day and really just trying to take those small steps."

Of course, despite the historic regular season the Lightning produced in 2018-19 and the above average numbers Coburn put up to help them reach unprecedented heights, the Bolts' early playoff bounce was shocking and frustrating for Coburn and his teammates. With his contract expiring, perhaps there was a thought in the back of Coburn's mind he'd played his last game with the Lightning.

He won't have to worry about that possibility after signing his new deal, which just might keep Coburn in Tampa through the end of his career, depending on how long he wants to continue playing and can do so effectively.

Video: Coburn 900th Game Tribute

Now in the fold for two more seasons, it's time for Coburn to get back to implementing new training regimens and working harder than ever this offseason in an effort to rectify the sting of that unexpectedly sudden postseason exit.

"When the playoffs were going on, (my wife) said, 'You know what, all day you're great. You're in a good mood with the kids and you're at home and you're focused on everything. As soon as 7, 7:30 rolls around, the playoff games start, I just see a change in you. You kind of turn into a grumpy sourpuss,'" Coburn recalled. "It's so true. You feel like you just have this pit in your stomach. It's not a fun feeling. It's something we have to chew on. I sure I'm not alone in saying that. You take your lumps and you chew on them and you just look at the ways to make yourself better and the team better for next season."

And with his spot on the roster secure for another two seasons thanks to his new contract, Coburn will be one of the players the Lightning have tasked to lead them to that better place.

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