SPECIAL REPORT: Former Moorhead, UND star Lee signs a two-year contract with Tampa Bay

Former Moorhead and University of North Dakota star defenseman Brian Lee has signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lee, according to the Lightning’s Twitter account, was a restricted free agent. The former Mr. Hockey winner and first-round pick was sent to Tampa Bay during the NHL’s Trade Deadline in February by the Ottawa Senators, the team which drafted him back in 2005 with the ninth overall pick.

After the trade, Lee played in 20 games with the Lightning scoring eight points. In all, he played in 55 games between his time with Ottawa and Tampa Bay – two more than his previous career high of games in a season. His 16 points were also the most in his career.

Lee will return to a Tampa Bay franchise looking to rebound from a rocky season finishing 38-36-8 where it missed out on the playoffs, a year after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and losing to eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins.

Prior to his NHL career, Lee was a star at Moorhead scoring 48 points as a junior and 38 as a senior en route to winning Mr. Hockey. He had a 12-game stint with the Lincoln Stars before playing two years at the University of North Dakota where he scored 53 points in 82 games before leaving school to pursue his pro career.


Carry On Wayward Son…

Former Moorhead star Brian Lee was traded this afternoon from the Ottawa Senators to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for former Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy.

Lee, 24, was selected by the Senators with the tenth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Lee played 12 games of junior hockey with the Lincoln Stars in the United States Hockey League before playing college hockey at North Dakota. Lee left North Dakota after two seasons going pro joining the Senators on a full-time basis in the 2008-09 season.

The former Minnesota Mr. Hockey award winner played 53 games with the Senators scoring a career-high 13 points in his first season. Since then, Lee fell on hard times with the club. Roster shuffles and coaching changes among other things saw Lee fall further down the pecking order.

Lee played in 50 games last season but wasn’t getting a lot of playing time and often found himself a healthy scratch.

This year, Lee has scored eight points in 35 games with the Senators, who are second in the Northeast Division and currently sits seventh in the Eastern Conference standings in the hopes of making the playoffs.

Despite his contributions, Lee was in a tough position when it came to fighting for minutes this season. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson is having one of the seasons in the NHL leading all league defensemen in scoring with 65 points in 63 games. Karlsson’s season coupled with experienced veterans and the emergence of Jared Cowan, the team’s first-round pick in 2009, meant Lee was the odd man out.

Lee will head to Tampa Bay, which six points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay, however, is also going through a bit of an injury crisis with hits defense. Three of the team’s defenseman are injured including former first-round pick Victor Hedman.

Injuries have opened up spots on the Lighting’s young blueline meaning Lee could get a chance at getting more minutes and cementing himself in a team’s lineup. Joining Tampa Bay means Lee will be playing alongside NHL stars Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

He’ll also be joined by another former North Dakota hockey star in defenseman Mike Commodore. Commodore was also traded to Tampa Bay today by the Detroit Red Wings in the hopes of adding another body and experience to the team.

The earliest Lee could debut with his new team could come tomorrow when Tampa Bay hosts Montreal.