Namestnikov, Vladislav

Bolts Avoid Arbitration, Re-sign Namestnikov to Two-Year Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year contract worth an annual average of $1,937,500-million per season, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Namestnikov, 23, skated in 80 games with the Lightning during the 2015-16 season, collecting 14 goals and 35 points to go along with 45 penalty minutes. The Zhukovskiy, Russia native set career highs this past season for games played, goals, assists, points and plus/minus (plus-17). Namestnikov ranked second on the Bolts for plus/minus, was tied for fourth for goals and seventh for points. He registered his first career NHL hat trick on January 15 this past season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward has appeared in 127 career NHL games, posting 23 goals and 51 points to go along with 62 penalty minutes. Namestnikov has also played in 29 career Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Lightning, recording a goal and four points. He skated in 17 playoff games with the Lightning in 2016, collecting a goal and three points.

Namestnikov was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 27th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Lightning Qualify 7 Pending RFAs; Release F David Broll

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have issued qualifying offers to seven players today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Players receiving qualifying offers were forwards Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Tye McGinn, Vladislav Namestnikov, defenseman Nikita Nesterov, and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis.

The deadline for NHL clubs to issue offers is today. By issuing qualifying offers to the aforementioned players, the Lightning are given the right of the first refusal or draft choice compensation should the player sign an offer sheet with another NHL club.

Forward David Broll was not issued a qualifying offer and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016.

BP Commentary (Chad): Really no huge surprises here. McGinn is a nice depth forward who will continue to help Syracuse. Gourde was not part of the Black Aces last year despite being a call-up earlier in the season, but he was hurt. He's also nice depth, a year removed from leading the Crunch in goals. Nesterov was a no-brainer though he's been passed by Slater Koekkoek, but again, depth. Broll's exit isn't surprising. Boko Imama could take his spot as the Crunch's pugilist, though he doesn't have a contract. Boko can go back to Saint John as an overager, or he could be signed to an AHL deal and have his rights retained, and therefore wouldn't count against the organization's 50-man roster. The guess here is Tampa Bay is in a wait-and-see mode over the summer.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-24-15 Lightning at Rangers

Tampa Bay whips New York at its own game.

Eastern Conference Finals
Game Five

TB-2
NYR-0

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-2

Ben Bishop stopped all 26 shots he faced behind a masterful defensive effort to get the shutout. He was challenged pretty hard by the talking heads in the media after allowing 10 goals total in the previous two games of the series, and he smothered what few chances the Rangers developed tonight. He was especially strong in the First Period as the Lightning played a classic road strategy where they successfully weathered the home club's early charge. In the end, U of Maine Justice reigned supreme, and were I a superstitious man I might be advocating having Nesterov hit Bishop in the tender bits during warm-ups before every game from here on out if that's the performance you end up getting out of it.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
13:29 TB Filppula (3), (Stamkos, Stralman)
18:22 TB Stamkos (7), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Steven Stamkos, Bishop, and Valtteri Filppula were the game's three stars.

I am absolutely shocked at this result. Not so much that the Lightning won, mind you, but how they won was absolutely amazing. The Lightning essentially followed the Rangers' own recipe and baked up a sweet confection filled with defensive dominance. The Lightning typically do not play well without the puck. They are a possession team and they have looked lost for most of the past couple of years in games where the other team tilts the ice against them. Tonight, playing against an amped up Rangers team fresh off a 5-1 win on their home ice in MSG, they played a nearly flawless, defense-first road game where they comfortably absorbed the Rangers' pushes and eventually manufactured the goals they needed on a counter rush and late on the power play. At the heart of it all was a Herculean effort by the team's much-maligned penalty kill, which went 4-for-4 tonight and made the Rangers look positively non-threatening on their last 3 chances with the extra man. These are things I'm fairly certain the Lightning were not constructed for, and yet they executed that style with amazing efficiency. And, once they had that 2-goal lead, they put the lid on in the Third Period with a calmness they absolutely failed to muster in their Game Three victory that ended up getting pushed to Overtime.

So, I'll say this: If the Lightning continue to prove they can win games like this consistently when they don't have the lion's share of possession, I don't know how you can beat them in a 7-game series. They continue to shore up every major hole and weakness in their game little by little as these playoffs move along. Bad PK last year? Looked pretty good most of these playoffs. Non-existent power play all regular season? Now they're getting key goals at key times. Waiting on your franchise cornerstones (Stamkos and Hedman) to rise up and be the team's best players along with Bishop? Sure looked that way tonight. When you layer learning to play a strong defensive game without the puck and learning how to protect leads in tight games on top of that, they're on the verge of becoming positively terrifying to play against. And, imagine this: Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin, and Slater Koekkoek aren't even regular contributors to this team, yet. They'll be even more talented at this time next season. I won't throw the "dy" word out there quite yet, but you can see where this might be progressing. They haven't played their best hockey consistently yet, and yet they've still managed to put the veteran-laden President's Trophy winner on the ropes after disposing of the presumptive MVP netminder in the previous round and NHL royalty in the Red Wings in the opening series. It just shows how incredibly talented this team is.

Now, here's another test for the Lightning. Much like the Montreal series, you don't want this game to go to a Game Seven in their barn. You don't want to step foot in New York again until next season. Now: finish them. Put the offensive jump from Game Four together with the defensive play from Game Five and the finishing from Game Two and Game Three and put the Rangers away. Do so, and the team punches its ticket for the Stanley Cup Finals. To paraphrase Tyler Johnson, how cool is that?

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 hit in 8:02, with his ice time limited in a tight game on the road with the team not holding last change. I have to say, I'm pleased how he's tightened up his game in the defensive zone after looking a little loose in that department in the Montreal series. He could be a monster in another year or two once he gets a full regular season in to develop further at the NHL level.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-4-15 Lightning at Panthers

Satisfying.

TB-4
FLA-0

Ben Bishop stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout win. That's some U of Maine Justice right there for the Panthers. I think he's been off a little mechanically the past couple of games, either due to being banged up or being fatigued, but he's a battler and he battled his way to getting the goose egg tonight.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
6:10 TB Stamkos (41), (Johnson, Nesterov)(PP)
11:19 TB Stamkos (42), (Callahan)

Third Period
1:03 TB Callahan (24), (Stamkos)
18:13 TB Johnson (27), (Drouin)

Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, and Bishop were the game's three stars.

There's so much good wrapped in this game, it's hard to make sure you hit all the high notes. From an in-game standpoint, the Lightning had 4 regular defensemen out of the lineup going against what should've been a desperate Panthers squad, and they managed to shut them out. Kudos to the young defensemen, and kudos to Coach Zettler and the staff in Syracuse. It's been fantastic to watch the sharp progress this season by Nesterov and the steady progress of the likes of Witkowski, Koekkoek, Blujus, and Dotchin. It's a really hard act following a guy who is arguably an all-time great AHL coach like Jon Cooper, but Zettler has shown some developmental mojo with these young defensemen and it makes you excited to see what he can accomplish working with a prospect like Anthony DeAngelo.

The Lightning also got a power play goal for the fourth straight game and Steven Stamkos snapped out of his funk with a vintage PP goal and a laser beam from the right wing faceoff dot. Stamkos needs to be Stamkos if the Lightning are going to do anything in the playoffs, and if he were to find his PP mojo, that alone could win the Lightning a playoff series or two they might not otherwise deserve.

From a standings standpoint, the Lightning clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs and tied Montreal in the standings with the Habs holding a game in hand. The Lightning have the ROW tiebreaker, so all the pressure is on Montreal right now. The Lightning get 4 days to rest and heal now while Montreal has to keep getting points if they want to maintain control of their own destiny in the division title pursuit. If they lose a game, the Lightning may be able to get Hedman, Sustr, and Killorn back on the ice for the final 2 games at home with the real prospect of earning a banner in the balance.

Oh, and the Lightning eliminate the Panthers from playoff contention. It's never a bad thing to kick dirt on their grave, is it?

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 16:19. This wasn't quite the same effort for Slater as against Ottawa, IMO, but it was still a solid performance for the rookie. If I was a Syracuse fan, I'd be very excited to see him in the playoffs because he's going to go back to the Crunch with a ton of confidence.

Luke Witkowski had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 15:34. Quiet is good.

Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +2 with 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 21:18. There was a lot of gushing about Nesterov tonight and rightfully so. He ate big minutes and he changes the complexion of the Lightning power play with his shoot first mentality and ability to get pucks through and on net. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think he's essentially running Barberio out of town for next season. They're similar players, but Nesterov's ceiling seems so much higher and he's already shown himself to be just as good, if not better, in his own third.

Vladislav Namestnikov played 11:36. He had one memorable rush where he slithered into the Panthers zone, but it was a quiet night for Namestnikov with Tyler Johnson returning and pushing him down off the line with Palat and Kucherov. Tonight was Namestnikov's 41st game of the season, so he graduated from prospect status on the website. Congratulations, Baby Faced Killer.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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