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Thank You, Yanni Gourde

(Photo via WKFR 103.3)

This hurts.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost C Yanni Gourde to the Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s newest franchise, last night.

Signed by the Lightning to a two-way contract in 2014, Gourde brought serious intrigue to Lightning fans when he first signed. Gourde led the QMJHL in scoring during the 2011-12 season (37 goals, 87 assists, for 124 points in 63 games), but struggled to impress NHL teams with three subpar seasons split between the ECHL and AHL.

The Lightning took a chance on the 21-year-old Gourde after the Worcester Sharks made an inexplicable mistake of releasing him from his PTO, signing him to an AHL contract for the rest of that season, and then a two-year, two-way deal that kicked off in 2014-15. After two and a half productive seasons with the Syracuse Crunch, Gourde was given a shot at the NHL level for two games, his first NHL goal taking place on his 24th birthday. Gourde showed instant promise, recording his first NHL assist and point that night, before being sent back down for the remainder of the regular season.

Gourde finally got his shot in 2016-17 as it was becoming apparent the Lightning would miss the playoffs. He had some flashes of brilliance, scoring his first NHL goal as a shorthanded marker, and capping off a 4-1 comeback against the Blackhawks with the OT winner. Gourde went into the 2017-18 season with a chip on his shoulder, just like the rest of the Bolts, and set records. Gourde's tally against the Buffalo Sabres on April 6th gave him the rookie record for goals AND points in a season. Gourde continued to be productive over the next few seasons, up until he wasn't.

Gourde's 2019-20 was so strange. He struggled at the beginning, then the Sweden trip brought out the beast. Gourde preceded to go on a 35 games goalless drought, not due to a lack of trying but just some awful, rotten luck. His OT goal against the Penguins late in the year not only snapped his goalless streak but gave him a renewed confidence. 10 points in 14 games before the stoppage, then another 14 points in 25 games in the bubble on route to the 2020 Stanley Cup. The Goodrow-Gourde-Coleman line was formed in the bubble and was the main reason they got that title

Gourde was just a beast during the 2020-21 season, with 17 goals and 19 assists in a full 56 games. Gourde was an energizer bunny during all 23 playoff games as well, scoring a shorthanded goal in Game 7 against the Islanders in Round 3, as well as the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

187 points in 310 regular-season games. 29 points in 69 playoff games. But it wasn’t just about the points. Gourde made an impact. Gourde could play on every line. Gourde was a fan favorite. Yanni Gourde exemplified everything that the Lightning organization strived for in their quest to win back-to-back championships.

Currently entering the third year of a six-year, $31 million contract that he signed in 2018, Gourde’s absence gives the Lightning cap room. They are now 1.5 million dollars under the salary cap ceiling, but that’s pretty much the only positive to come from this exchange. We will miss you, Yanni, best of luck in Seattle.

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