Promotion/Demotion

Tukonen Returns to Finland; Admirals Camp Set to Open

The web site of the Finnish SM-Liiga team Rauma Lukko is reporting that Lightning forward prospect Lauri Tukonen has left the Tampa training camp early and will be arriving back in Rauma on Saturday in time to participate in team drills on Monday. Tukonen, while not yet reassigned to Norfolk, failed to make the team roster for either of the Lightning's first two exhibition games. The Lightning signed the former LA Kings 1st round pick to a one-year, two-way contract on July 16, but his contract reportedly has a European out-clause allowing the winger to return to Lukko instead of reporting to Norfolk.

Open roster slots on the Tampa forward lines are heavily contested and the competition apparently has gotten even tougher with head coach Rick Tocchet quoted as saying today that 2009 1st round pick Carter Ashton "has shown enough that he could stay. He's done everything asked of him." Ashton will make his NHL debut tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers in Tampa's only home pre-season match, and he is expected to start on Tampa's top line alongside Vincent Lecavalier and free agent acquisition Alex Tanguay.

Meanwhile, the Norfolk Admirals have announced that their 2009 training camp will open Wednesday, September 23 with the scheduled Admirals vs. Lightning exhibition match two days later on Friday at the Scope. Admirals GM Mike Butters announced that the following free agents will attend training camp: D Ben Wright, D Trevor Hendrikx, C Ryan McDonald, C Travis Whitehead, former Lightning prospect LW Justin Keller, RW Matt Dias, RW Stephen Werner, RW Erick Lizon, RW Chaz Johnson and RW Tommy Goebel. These free agents will join Lightning prospects Kevin Quick, Scott Jackson, Chris Lawrence, and Mitch Fadden who were assigned to Admirals yesterday from the Tampa training camp. Other Lightning players will join the Admirals camp as the Tampa staff continue to trim down the NHL roster.

The Admirals will hold on-ice practice sessions at The Scope next week. Beginning on Thursday, September 24, all weekday on-ice practices will be open to the public. Wednesday’s training camp testing sessions and all weekend practices will be closed to the public. The Admiral camp schedule is as follows:

Bolts Reassign Four to Norfolk

The Tampa Bay Lightning have assigned defensemen Kevin Quick and Scott Jackson along with forwards Chris Lawrence and Mitch Fadden to the Norfolk Admirals, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today. Fadden, a first-year pro and prolific scorer for Tri-City and Lethbridge of the WHL, was thought to have a shot at getting an exhibition game with the Lightning but that will have to wait until the Admirals pre-season begins. Jackson, Quick and Lawrence each spent the majority of last season with the Admirals, with Lawrence begining the final year of his three-year entry level rookie contract this season. With these four assignments, the Lightning reduce the size of their camp roster to 43.

Lightning prospects remaining at the 2009 Lightning training camp include goaltenders Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski; defensemen Victor Hedman, Matt Lashoff, Ty Wishart, and Vladimir Mihalik; forwards Steve Downie, Carter Ashton, Richard Panik, Dana Tyrell, Paul Szczechura, Martins Karsums, Radek Smolenak, Blair Jones, James Wright, Juraj Simek, and Lauri Tukonen.

Nizhnekamsk Cuts Smolenak During KHL Pre-season

Reports have surface on the Czech site iDNES.cz that Nizhnekamsk of the KHL has cut Bolt prospect forward Radek Smolenak from its pre-season roster. Smolenak had signed a contract with Nizhnekamsk at the end of May 2009 after his entry level deal with the Lightning expired. Smolenak's defection back to Europe came as a surprise after a somewhat successful six-game debut with Tampa during the 2008-09 season. The 22 year old left winger posted a career year bagging 24 goals and 25 assists along with 165 penalty minutes in 71 games for the AHL Norfolk Admirals after being selected in the 3rd round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning. Heading into the 2009 summer, it appeared that Smolenak was poised to push for a Lightning roster spot in the 2009-10 training camp, but his decision to forego resigning with Tampa as a restricted free agent signaled that he wasn't interested in the possibility of returning to Norfolk.

"It all happened quickly. I joined the preparatory matches and trained, but the mood overall was very good. In the four games we'd succumbed, then head of the club announced that Neftekhimik issue a bit differently," Smolenak said in a loosely translated quote from the Czech web site. Smolenak further indicated he had no immediate plans as to the next stop for his hockey career, but the Bolts continue to hold his NHL rights after issuing the gritty winger a qualifying offer in June. With the trade of the speedy and physical Evgeny Artyukhin to Anaheim earlier this month, the Lightning may very well still be interested in getting Smolenak back to North America for the 2009-10 season.

Tocchet Loses Interim Label

(Tampabaylightning.com) The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Rick Tocchet to a multi-year contract to serve as the seventh head coach in team history, executive vice president and general manager Brian Lawton announced Monday. Tocchet becomes the team’s head coach after serving 66 games as interim coach during 2008-09. The job marks Tocchet’s first in the NHL as a permanent head coach.

A source told The Sporting News the deal was 2 years in length, not the standard 3 year deal as expected.

Helenius, Quick to Taste Playoff Action

The Elmira Jackals of the ECHL have announced their playoff roster, and it includes two top Lightning prospects: goaltender Riku Helenius and defenseman Kevin Quick. Both players are slated to join Elmira at the conclusion of their AHL regular seasons with Norfolk. Helenius and Quick are eligible for the ECHL playoffs by virtue of having played in Augusta and Mississippi of the ECHL earlier this season.

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