TAMPA BAY Ė The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Andrej Meszaros (AWN-dray MEHT-zahr-ohsh) to a six-year contract today, executive vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton announced. Meszaros was acquired from the Ottawa Senators yesterday in exchange for defensmen Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard as well as a first-round draft pick in 2009 (previously acquired).
"The acquisition and signing of Andrej is a strong statement to our players and our fans that the Lightning ownership group is committed to putting the best product on the ice now and for years to come," Lawton said.
"The Lightning are extremely pleased to have Andrej under contract for the next 6 years. Andrej will be a very big part of our hockey club moving forward. At 22 years of age he will only continue to improve and mature as a player. NHL defensemen typically don't hit their prime until 25-26 years of age and we look forward to working with Andrej throughout that time and beyond."
"Iím excited to be joining the Lightning," Meszaros said. "Iím extremely happy to be heading to Tampa Bay and I canít wait to take advantage of this opportunity. We should have a great team and I can not wait to get started."
Meszaros, a 6-foot-2, 218-pound native of Povazska Bystrica, Slovakia, played in all 82 games with Ottawa last season, recording nine goals and 36 points. He ranked second on the Senators in points among defenseman, two behind Wade Redden. His six power-play goals were a career high and led all Ottawa defensemen. Meszaros also ranked third on the team in blocked shots with 100 and was fifth on the team in average ice time with 21:02.
A veteran of 246 NHL games, Meszaros has yet to miss a game in his career, playing in all 82 games during each of the previous three seasons. He has recorded 26 career goals and 110 points with 213 penalty minutes. Meszaros has also accumulated 11 power-play goals, four game-winning goals and one shorthanded goal. In 2005-06 he was tied for third overall in the NHL and led all rookies in plus/minus rating with a plus-34. He has played in 34 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, recording two goals and nine points. He played his first career playoff game and scored his first career playoff goal during the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Lightning.
Meszaros made his North American debut with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League in 2004-05. He played in 59 games with Vancouver, registering 11 goals and 41 points en route to being named the teamís Rookie of the Year and Defenseman of the Year. He was fifth in WHL rookie scoring and was named to the WHL Western Conferenceís Second All-Star Team.
The 22-year-old has represented Slovakia in numerous international tournaments, most recently the 2006 World Championships and Olympics. He recorded two assists in six games during the Olympics and played in one game at the World Championships. He captained Team Slovakia at the 2005 World Junior Championships and finished tied for the team lead in goals with three and tied for third with four points. He also ranked fourth in the tournament scoring among defensemen. Meszaros was the youngest player (18) on Slovakiaís 2004 World Junior Championship and World Championship rosters. He recorded a goal and an assist in one game at the junior tournament and one assist in seven games at the World Championships.