TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward J.T. Brown to a two-year, one-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Brown, 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, appeared in 63 games with the Lightning last season, posting four goals and 19 points while averaging 13:02 in ice time per game. He ranked fourth among Tampa Bay rookies for assists and points. Brown also played in all four Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2014, notching two assists. He was tied for the team lead for helpers and ranked tied for fourth on the team for points. Brown also saw his average ice time increase to 14:59 during the postseason.
With the draft around the corner and the most significant free agent signing in the books, it’s time to take note of what Steve Yzerman and the Lightning have to work with at all levels.
The caveat here is that spots are earned in workouts and camp and not on computer screens, so this is just fun speculation and subject to change.
Here’s a look at what the Lightning would probably need to look like if they are to become a conference contender:
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Ryan Callahan to a six-year contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
"We are pleased to announce that we've reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension with Ryan,” Yzerman said. “He's proven to be a fierce competitor and outstanding leader who fits very well with our team."
“I couldn’t be happier to be part of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization for the next six years and I am excited for this new chapter of my career,” Callahan said. “Tampa Bay has been a great place to live and play from the day I got there. As soon as the season ended I knew it was a place I wanted to be.”
By Pete Choquette (@jollymeangiant)
As noted in Bolt Prospects’ 2013-2014 Final Rankings, this past season was a banner year for the Lightning’s prospect system. Ten prospects, including eight prospects from our top-25 rankings and another two overage prospects, ultimately became contributors to the big club on their way to a surprising berth in the NHL playoffs.
That success may lull Lightning fans into a false sense of security about the team’s prospect system, but a look at the struggles of the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL this past season and a look at the significant drop-off after the first half-dozen remaining prospects in our top-25 rankings reveals there is much work to be done to restock the cupboard. Fortunately, the Lightning will go into this summer’s June draft with three top-60 draft picks, including a conditional first round pick acquired from the New York Rangers in the Martin St. Louis trade that was escalated from a second round pick by virtue of the Rangers advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
For those paying attention to the past three drafts by Steve Yzerman and Al Murray, the Tampa brain trust seems to cast an eye on at least one juniors or European player that can provide immediate help to the AHL affiliate or at least fast tracked to help the following season.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have resigned forward Alex Killorn to a two-year contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Killorn, 24, played in all 82 games for the Lightning last season, collecting 17 goals and 41 points to go along with 63 penalty minutes. He was one of three players on the Bolts to skate in all 82 games. Killorn ranked sixth on the Lightning for goals with 17 in his first full season in the NHL. He notched six points in the first five games of the 2013-14 season, including the overtime-winner in Buffalo on October 8.
The Tampa Bay Lightning announced the schedule and roster for the team’s annual Development Camp, to be held from July 2-6 at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum. The roster currently consists of a total of 26 players, 15 forwards, seven defensemen and four goaltenders. The camp is free and open to the public.
The camp will feature some of the Lightning’s top prospects competing in on and off-ice workouts, skating drills and will culminate with the annual 3-on-3 tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Once again the tournament will be streamed LIVE on www.TampaBayLightning.com.
The third overall selection of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Jonathan Drouin, will make his second Lightning Development Camp appearance, as will highly-touted goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who will be making his North American debut in 2014-15. Lightning fans will recognize goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis and forward Cedric Paquette from their time with the Bolts last season. Former first-round selection Slater Koekkoek will also be in attendance.
Of those players attending the camp, there are three invitees, including Hobey Baker candidate, Mike Richter Trophy finalist, and Brandon native Clay Witt from Northeastern University. There are also three players who were signed as free agents, and 19 draftees. The drafted players feature six from the 2013 draft, eight from the 2012 draft, three from 2011 and two from 2010.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have resigned forward Ondrej Palat to a three-year contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Palat, 23, skated in 81 games for the Lightning during the 2013-14 season, collecting 23 goals and 59 points to go along with a plus-32 rating. He was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, given annually to the top NHL rookie, which will be announced on Tuesday, June 24 in Las Vegas. He ranked second among all NHL rookies for points and was third for goals. Palat also led all Lightning skaters for points and plus/minus. He became just the third player in Lightning franchise history to finish the season with a plus/minus rating better than 30.
Before saying farewell to the 2013-2014 season in our Final Rankings, lets step back and reflect on what an unprecedented season it was. Eight prospects who appeared on our 2013-2014 Preliminary Rankings list graduated from prospect status during the season (Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio, J.T. Brown, Richard Panik, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrej Sustr), while another two overage prospects also graduated (Ben Bishop and Alex Killorn). Palat and Johnson were named finalists for the Calder Trophy while Bishop was tapped as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Put simply, it'll be decades before the Lightning ever have a prospect class like this go through the system again, if ever. Remember that as you read through these 2013-2014 Final Rankings, which reflect a talent pool that has been drained of the majority of its best players. True, there are still two of the best NHL prospects in the land on the list, but the drop-off after the first half dozen or so prospects in the rankings is dramatic now, which was reflected in AHL Syracuse's showing in the standings this season. It's a top-heavy group in desperate need of an infusion of new blood starting in June when Steve Yzerman and the Lightning's scouting staff holds three picks in the top-60 of the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. So, if they don't trade any of those picks for immediate help at the NHL level, do not despair, because the need for cupboard re-stocking is real and it's immediate.
Before jumping into the rankings, of course, there's the ever-present need to clarify the site rules pertaining to prospect status. Prospects who were under the age of 24 on opening night of the Lightning's season are eligible for the list. Skaters who have appeared in 41 NHL games in a single season or 82 career NHL games are considered graduated from prospect status. Goaltenders who have accrued 30 NHL decisions in a single season or 41 career NHL decisions are considered graduated from prospect status. NCAA-based players are eligible to stay as prospects even if they are 24 years of age or older.
Yes, this means Brett Connolly is considered graduated from prospect status. No, we're not going to bend the rules on a case-by-case basis. Yes, to paraphrase the old Churchill quote, we think it is the worst set of prospect ranking eligibility rules except all the others that have been tried.
With that out of the way, let's proceed…
It’s no secret the Lightning are in need of another top-4 defenseman if they are to make a run at the conference title next season. With the expected departure of Sami Salo this summer, and the overuse of Radko Gudas last year, there’s a hole next to Victor Hedman on the top pair that has to be filled. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a hoard of tradable assets in his back pocket ready to make a deal (2 first round picks this year and next, young forwards with scoring upside, Gudlevskis/Wilcox) in June.
The following list is as informal as it gets. These are players who are either rumored to be on the block, may be on the block (not “core*” players), or could be available for the right price based on their individual situations or existing depth on their respective clubs.
The list is limited to right-handed defensemen, preferably with the ability to move the puck and run a power play (unless otherwise noted). Lightning coach Jon Cooper used Mike Kostka more than he probably should have last year as he was one of the few (only?) players he had able to move the puck on the right side. Cooper has shown in his career with the Lightning organization that gives his defensemen a bright green light, and the more forward-like they are while maintaining defensive responsibilities, the better.
The following categories are broken down into those capable of top-4 minutes now, those who could work their way into that role quickly, and those who could be acquired in addition to a top-4 if Yzerman wants to get a righty puckmover on the cusp of top-6 defensemen minutes – something that is severely lacking in the system.