Syracuse Crunch

Lightning Minor Pro Preview: Defensemen

The Syracuse Crunch will open training camp on September 28 with more talent than they originally expected. The NHL lockout forced the postponement of the Lightning’s training camp and subsequently meant all prospects and young NHLers expected to start the year in Tampa will now start the year in the AHL.

Lost in this situation is the opportunity to have out-of-nowhere stories like Cory Conacher or Brett Connolly last year or perhaps most famously, Dmitri Afanasenkov in 2003.

While that’s bad news for the Tampa Bay media and fans, it’s good news for the Syracuse fan base, who at this point is like a kid with a birthday the day after Christmas. Not only does a championship team show up at their arena’s front door, now they get a significant upgrade in talent to a team that was already expected to compete for a championship.

This is also good news for the Florida Everblades – another team coming off a championship – as they’ll get the players pushed down from Syracuse.

The question is who?

Here’s a look at the latest minor pro organizational roster of the Tampa Bay Lightning and some notes and predictions for each player, broken down by position.

Today: Defensemen

Janus Signs 2-year Agreement with KHL Club

Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy reports Lightning prospect goaltender Jaroslav Janus has signed a two-year contract with HC Slovan Bratislava of the Kontinental Hockey League. Janus had been on a tryout agreement with the club.

Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times confirmed the 2-year contract with Janus' agent. The agent told Cristodero that Janus has an out clause next summer should he wish to return to North America.

The fourth-year pro went to Europe looking for a No.1 goaltending position after being nudged out of the Lightning's AHL plans when Tampa Bay signed goalies Anders Lindback and Riku Helenius. Lindback in Tampa with Mathieu Garon keeps Dustin Tokarski in the AHL and Helenius takes Janus' spot as Tokarski's tandem partner.

The Lightning encouraged Janus' move to Europe as it will give him the best chance for more playing time – which is exactly what he needs at this point in his development. The club made it clear they continue to view Janus, 22, as a legitimate NHL prospect. The Lightning are scheduled to get Garon off the books next year, opening up a possible spot for Helenius, Tokarski, or Janus.

Lightning Add Defensive Depth

(Tampa Bay Lightning press release) The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Matt Taormina to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Taormina, 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, has played in 47 career NHL games with the New Jersey Devils during the previous two seasons, recording four goals and 12 points with a plus-4 rating. He made his NHL debut on October 8 vs. Dallas and recorded his first point October 13 at Buffalo.

A native of Warren, Michigan, Taormina has played in 199 career AHL games with the Binghamton Senators, Lowell Devils and Albany River Rats. He has registered 18 goals and 71 points, including a career-high 16 goals and 66 points in 2009-10. That season he led all Lowell defensemen, and was third on the team, with 10 goals and 50 points. Those totals were the most by a rookie in franchise history. Taormina also set a franchise record with 32 power-play points with eight goals and 24 assists.

Crunch Add Some Hurt to Lineup; Sign Neilson and Nightingale

Syracuse, NY – The Syracuse Crunch have signed right wing Eric Neilson and defenseman Jared Nightingale each to a one-year AHL contract today, Crunch General Manager Julien BriseBois announced.

Neilson, 27, played in 47 games with the Calder Cup Champion Norfolk Admirals, recording one goal and 74 penalty minutes. The Fredericton, NB, native has appeared in 186 AHL games with Peoria, Hamilton, San Antonio and Norfolk, totaling 12 points (6g, 6a) and 560 penalty minutes. Neilson was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round, 143rd overall, of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Neilson is a three-time IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the year award winner, (Peoria 2008-09, Hamilton 2009-10 and San Antonio 2010-11).

Nightingale, 29, most recently played for the Connecticut Whale collecting 10 points (1g, 9a) and 110 penalty minutes in 67 regular season games during the 2011-12 season. The blueliner has appeared in 264 AHL contests with Connecticut, Hartford, Chicago, Iowa and Springfield and totaled 38 points (11g, 28a) and 619 penalty minutes. A native of Jackson, MI, Nightingale also played four years for Michigan State University where he totaled 23 points (2g, 21a) in 156 career NCAA games.

Evan Oberg Signs One-Year Extension with Bolts

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Evan Oberg to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. That leaves just goaltenders Anders Lindback and Jaroslav Janus as the team's only remaining unsigned restricted free agents. Recently acquired forward Benoit Pouliot also remains unsigned, but was not qualified by the team and now has unrestricted free agent status. Pouliot is expected to sign with the Lightning amid multiple reports from team and agent indicating that deal would be done.

Oberg, 24, played in three games with the Lightning last season, recording a plus-2 rating. He was acquired by the Lightning with Mike Kostka from the Florida Panthers on December 2 in exchange for James Wright and Mike Vernace. He made his Lightning debut on January 24 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Oberg has skated in seven career NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks and Lightning.

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