Jeff Tambellini (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed Jeff Tambellini to a one-year, two-way contract. A first round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2003, Tambellini has spent the past four seasons in Europe. A veteran, depth winger, Tambellini has been a force at the AHL level and could provide some offensive punch when called up.
For the past four seasons, Jeff Tambellini has made his way throughout Europe, suiting up in Switzerland, Sweden and back to Switzerland again. But the 31-year-old winger signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning that will see him back in North America next season.
Tambellini is the interesting case of a player who seemed like he was a perfect fit for the NHL game in a clutch and grab-free era, but was never quite able to carry over his skill at lower levels to the big league stage. Drafted in the first round, 27th overall, by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003, Tambellini struggled to make an impact in the NHL during his first go-round.
Over the course of 242 NHL games in which he suited up for the Kings, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks, Tambellini scored 27 goals and 63 points, or fewer total points than he scored in one 57-game campaign with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2007-08.
In that sense, maybe the best comparisons that can be made for Tambellini’s game is that of a Jason Krog, Keith Aucoin or Darren Haydar: all-stars at the AHL level who were never able to make their mark in the NHL. Haydar and Aucoin are top 20 scorers all-time in the AHL with 788 and 857 points respectively.
Of those three players, however, none has achieved a points-per-game in the AHL quite as high as Tambellini. In 176 AHL contests, Tambellini scored 101 goals and 201 points, with his best season coming in 2007-08 when he notched 38 goals and 76 points with Bridgeport.
What makes Tambellini’s new deal interesting, though, is the two-way nature might actually give him a shot at cracking the Lightning roster as a depth forward. Even if he doesn’t start the year in the NHL, he could be a sound, veteran call up that produces some offense.
Over his past four seasons in Switzerland and Sweden, Tambellini has performed quite well, too. His best season came in 2011-12 as a member of the ZSC Lions of the Swiss NLA, when he amassed 23 goals and 45 points in 55 games.
While he’s far removed from his college days, Tambellini was a CCHA Rookie of the Year and first team all-star before coming to the NHL, so that he’s never found NHL success even as a bit player is surprising.