This bit of news went overlooked last Friday on trash day, but the Tampa Bay Lightning reassigned overaged prospect defenseman Janne Niskala to Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League on November 14.
Niskala cleared waivers on November 6 and had been loaned to the Norfolk Admirals while the Lightning awaited the European leagues to return from a break in play, but Niskala did not report to the Admirals per an arrangement with Lightning GM Brian Lawton. Niskala had a clause in his contract that allowed him to be reassigned to a European team in the event he could not stick with the NHL roster. The signing of free agent defensemen Marek Malik resulted in Niskala being a consistent healthy scratch, promptly the player to ask Lawton for a European reassignment.
Niskala joins a Frolunda team that earlier in the SEL season released fellow Bolt overaged defensive prospect Andreas Holmqvist, who has subsequently joined Djurgardens.
The Norfolk Admirals have announced that they have sent RW/C Chris Lawrence down to Augusta of the ECHL. Lawrence, who is in his second professional season, has struggled with just 1 assist in 10 games for the Admirals after a strong Traverse City tournament for the Lightning. Lawrence may return to Norfolk after the team's week long road trip through the northeast that begins on Tuesday at Lowell.
Ward had been placed on waivers and cleared just over a week ago, and had been awaiting word on his playing future with the organization. Ward has been a scratch for all but one game this season, but indicated to the Tribune's Eric Erlendsson that he was relieved to have an opportunity to play instead of watching, even if it was at the AHL level. Ward's future with the Lightning had been in doubt since early in the summer when the new ownership group begin acquiring an abundance of forward depth. Ward's arrival in Norfolk will put the team 2 players over the veteran roster limit, which means Admirals head coach Darren Rumble will have decisions to make on who will play and who will sit.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forward Justin Keller to the Norfolk Admirals from the ECHL's Augusta Lynx, Admirals General Manager Mike Butters announced today.
Keller, 22, is a 6'0", 181-pound forward from Nelson, British Columbia. He was originally assigned from Norfolk to Augusta on October 22 and put up four goals and an assist in four games with the Lynx. In two games for Norfolk to begin this season, the third-year pro registered one assist.
Keller was one of just three players with a Lightning NHL contract that was not invited to this year's training camp, and has struggled to distinguish himself with the new forward depth in the Tampa system that the new club ownership has acquired. In two prior professional seasons with Norfolk and Springfield, Keller has scored 28 goals and 23 assists in 130 AHL games played. Keller's three-year entry-level contract expires at the end of this season.
Multiple local Tampa sources are reporting today that Lightning overaged defensive prospect Janne Niskala cleared waivers at noon and will be reassigned to a European team. Niskala had reportedly signed a contract at the beginning of the summer with a European KHL team, prompting the Nashville Predators to trade his rights to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning subsequently acquired Niskala's rights from the Flyers just prior to the beginning of free agency for a 2009 6th round pick, and signed the blueliner to a one-year contract with a European out-clause in case he was unable to make the Tampa roster.
Niskala earned a roster spot in training camp with solid offensive contributions both at even strength and on the power play. But the acquisitions of Lucas Krajicek and Marek Malik to the Lightning's blueline along with the return of Paul Ranger from IR after the team returned from their season openers in Prague relegated Niskala to the pressbox as the team's seventh defenseman. Niskala was reportedly unhappy about being scratched and recently met with Tampa GM Brian Lawton to discuss his future with the club.
With the European leagues on break, Niskala was reassigned to the Swedish National Team, and will eventually join a yet unnamed club in the SM-Liiga. Niskala will be available prior to the trade deadline for recall to Tampa, but would need to clear recall waivers. Niskala scored 1 goal and added 2 assists in 6 games for the Lightning this season.