There stands a good chance that fans may get another glimpse of defenseman Paul Ranger donning a blue and white sweater on the ice this upcoming season.
The only trouble is, it will be that of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, the top minor-league affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
According to reports, Ranger has signed a one-year minor league deal with the Marlies in an attempt to revive his hockey career, which was abruptly cut short when the Lightning granted him personal leave just eight games into the 2009-10 season.
No reason for his premature departure ever surfaced, but Ranger did not return to the Bolts that season, and the team relieved itself of any contractual obligation to the native of Whitby, Ontario when it did not issue him a qualifying offer prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.
Since then, Ranger has reportedly been helping out in his home province of Ontario coaching youth hockey. He most recently became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, allowing him to sign with any team.
Selected by the Lightning in the sixth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Ranger appeared in 270 career NHL games with Tampa Bay, registering 18 goals and 92 points to go along with 218 penalty minutes. He was highly-regarded as a solid puck-moving defenseman who had the ability to quickly get a first pass out of the defensive zone with little difficulty.
Following his best season in 2007-08 when he achieved NHL career highs in both goals and points with 10 and 31, respectively, Ranger underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder before requiring the same operation on his opposite shoulder in March 2009.
Currently, Ranger is also featured on the Lightning’s commemorative 20th Anniversary Site, 20yearsofthunder.com, as one of the top players in franchise history. Fans may log on and cast their vote to share their favorite player until September 10.