FORMER LIGHTNING FIRST-ROUND PICK RETURNS TO TAMPA BAY
– The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired center Chris Gratton from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2007 or 2008 NHL Entry Draft (Florida’s option), Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster announced.
Gratton, the Lightning’s first-round choice (third overall) at the 1993 Entry Draft, played in 404 games with the Lightning from 1993-97 and 1998-00. The 31-year-old served as Tampa Bay’s captain during the 1999-00 season and recorded 88 goals and 236 points in his two stints with Tampa Bay. He recorded career highs in goals (30), points (62) and penalty minutes (207) in 1996-97 with the Lightning.
A 6-foot-4, 221-pound native of Brantford, Ontario, Gratton spent the previous two seasons with Florida. His best season with the Panthers was 2005-06 when he scored 17 goals and recorded 39 points. Last year he played in 81 games and netted 13 goals with 35 points while also leading the Panthers in face-off percentage at 51.2 percent.
“Chris Gratton is the ideal third-line center for our hockey team,” Feaster said. “He has great size and strength, he is very good on face-offs, he has excellent grit and is willing both to take care of himself and defend his teammates, he is fearless when standing in front of the net on the power play and he has developed over time into a solid penalty killer as well. We believe Chris brings to our club a host of elements that we need in order to have the depth necessary to continue to be a top caliber team.
"We have been pursuing Chris for some time now, and I honestly thought we were going to be able to get a deal done to acquire him at the trade deadline this past season. While that did not happen, we never lost our interest in adding Chris as an ideal complement to Vinny and Richy as a big, strong, multi-faceted third-line center who shares our organizational commitment to winning. They say in life that 'the third time is the charm' and we truly believe that his third time in a Lightning uniform is going to be a great one for Chris and our team, and we welcome him back to the Lightning family.”
The 14-year NHL veteran has played in 1,008 career games with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Phoenix, Colorado and Florida. He has 204 career goals and 544 points with 1,549 penalty minutes. He has also won 55.3 percent of faceoffs dating back to the 2001-02 season.
During his career, Gratton has recorded seven seasons with 15 goals or more and 11 seasons with 10 goals or more. He also put together 10 seasons with 30 points or more. He has played in 40 career playoff games, most recently with Colorado in 2004, recording eight goals and 15 points during his career. He made his first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance with Tampa Bay in 1996 and recorded two assists in six games.
In 1997 Gratton signed with Philadelphia as a free agent after four seasons with the Lightning. He played 108 games with the Flyers before being re-acquired by Tampa Bay on December 12, 1998. The Lightning then traded him to Buffalo during the 1999-00 season, and after three seasons in Buffalo he went on to play with the Coyotes, Avalanche and Panthers.