Keller, McKenna Not Qualified

According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times, the Tampa Bay Lightning have chosen not to qualify restricted free agents forward Justin Keller and goaltender Mike McKenna.

Players receiving qualifying offers were defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin; forwards Martins Karsums, Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak and Lauri Tukonen; and goaltender Karri Ramo. Both Smolenak and Ramo have signed contracts to play in the KHL next season.

Keller, an 8th round pick in the 2004 draft, completed his 3 year entry level contract this season after being one of two prospects not invited to the 2008-09 Lightning training camp and starting the season in Augusta of the ECHL. Keller was productive down the stretch for the AHL Norfolk Admirals and, coupled with Smolenak's decision to return to Europe, opened the door for him to be possibly re-qualified. However, it would now seem the Lightning have their sights on bringing Lauri Tukonen back to North America after acquiring his rights from the Dallas Stars during last season.

McKenna, who started the season as on a AHL contract and splitting the Admiral netminding duties with Ramo, found himself in Tampa on a one-year entry level contract after season-ending injuries to Lightning goaltenders Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig. With Bolt prospects Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski under contract, and newly drafted prospect Jaroslav Janus looking for a pro contract, it would seem that there was no room for McKenna in the organization despite Ramo's decision to play in Europe next season.