Nizhnekamsk Cuts Smolenak During KHL Pre-season

Reports have surface on the Czech site iDNES.cz that Nizhnekamsk of the KHL has cut Bolt prospect forward Radek Smolenak from its pre-season roster. Smolenak had signed a contract with Nizhnekamsk at the end of May 2009 after his entry level deal with the Lightning expired. Smolenak's defection back to Europe came as a surprise after a somewhat successful six-game debut with Tampa during the 2008-09 season. The 22 year old left winger posted a career year bagging 24 goals and 25 assists along with 165 penalty minutes in 71 games for the AHL Norfolk Admirals after being selected in the 3rd round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning. Heading into the 2009 summer, it appeared that Smolenak was poised to push for a Lightning roster spot in the 2009-10 training camp, but his decision to forego resigning with Tampa as a restricted free agent signaled that he wasn't interested in the possibility of returning to Norfolk.

"It all happened quickly. I joined the preparatory matches and trained, but the mood overall was very good. In the four games we'd succumbed, then head of the club announced that Neftekhimik issue a bit differently," Smolenak said in a loosely translated quote from the Czech web site. Smolenak further indicated he had no immediate plans as to the next stop for his hockey career, but the Bolts continue to hold his NHL rights after issuing the gritty winger a qualifying offer in June. With the trade of the speedy and physical Evgeny Artyukhin to Anaheim earlier this month, the Lightning may very well still be interested in getting Smolenak back to North America for the 2009-10 season.

Bolts Resign Martins Karsums

Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL parent club of the Norfolk Admirals, have re-signed right wing Martins Karsums to a one-year contract today, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced.

Karsums, 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, has played in 24 career NHL games with Tampa Bay and Boston. During his first NHL season in 2009-10, he amassed a goal and six points. He played in 18 games with the Lightning after being acquired from Boston in a trade along with Matt Lashoff in exchange for Mark Recchi and a second-round pick in 2010 on March 4, 2009.

Norfolk Assistant Coach Alan May Quits

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that Norfolk Admirals assistant coach Alan May has resigned his position effective immediately.

Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton has begun the search for a new assistant coach in Norfolk. He hopes to have the position filled by the end of next week.

May spent one year behind the Norfolk bench. The Barrhead, Alberta, native played 12 seasons professionally including 393 career NHL games between Boston, Edmonton, Washington, Dallas and Calgary.

Bolts Lose Rights to Courtnall

BoltProspects has confirmed that Tampa Bay no longer retains the rights to prospect forward Justin Courtnall, the Lightning's last pick in the 7th round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Courtnall was drafted out of BCHL Victoria and normally would have to be signed two years after his draft date, but it was thought that the Lightning would retain his rights while Courtnall continues his hockey development at Boston University. It's unclear at the time of this report why the Lightning do not retain Courtnall's rights, but it is speculated that perhaps Courtnall is not attending BU on a scholarship and perhaps that is the reason why Tampa cannot retain his rights without a contract. BoltProspects will update this story as more information is revealed.

UPDATE: The loss of Courtnall's rights had nothing to do with whether or not he is on scholarship at BU, but solely because he was not already in an NCAA program when the deadline to sign 2007 draft picks passed.

Lightning Pass on Wessbecker

BoltProspects confirmed today with the Tampa Bay Lightning that the Bolts have failed to sign prospect defenseman John Wessbecker before the deadline for signing NCAA graduated seniors expired. Wessbecker is now an unrestricted free agent and is able to sign with any team. The Victoria, MN native was a 7th round draft pick by Tampa in the 2005 NHL entry level draft and was a leader on the 2008-09 UMass hockey squad. The 6.02 and 198 lb. stay-at-home blueliner returned for his senior season after missing the last half of the 2007-08 due to injury, finishing his collegiate career with 2 goals and 10 assists in 123 games in 4 years for Don "Toot" Cahoon's Minutemen.

The passing over of Wessbecker seemed likely from clues earlier in the summer after Lightning GM Brian Lawton announced that Tampa would only carry around 40 contracts this upcoming season. Furthermore, the new Lightning management have succeeded in shoring up the Lightning blueline depth system-wide with a rash of acquisitions, free agent signing, and draft picks over the the past two off-seasons which made a Wessbecker contract even more unlikely.

Tokarski Featured in Canada's National Post

[b]Lightning prospect Tokarski does nothing but win[/b] (National Post) The 19-year-old goaltender obsessively taps his posts and his chest. And during every stoppage in play, he pokes the top of his net twice with the blade of his stick. "That kid must take forever to wash his hands," one fan observed after watching Tokarski mind the Spokane Chiefs' net during a Western Hockey League game last season. Like baseball player Nomar Garciaparra's ritual of adjusting and readjusting his gloves before every pitch, Tokarski's habits can be enervating to watch. But as much as his twitchiness makes him appear unsettled, it also puts him in a comfort zone. "I've been doing that ever since I was 13 years old," he says. Tokarski has also made a habit of winning.[/quote] To read the rest of the story, see the [i]National Post[/i]/[i]StarPhoenix[/i] by [url=http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/story.html?id=1905143]clicking here[/url].

Bolts Sign Affiliation Deal with Colorado Eagles

The Coloradoan is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Central Hockey League's Colorado Eagles have inked a minor league affiliation deal.

“You can see a player that has the potential of playing in the National Hockey League being assigned to the Colorado Eagles,” Eagles’ president and general manager Chris Stewart said this evening. “It gives us the potential of developing good young talent and hopefully provides us with a better opportunity to win a championship.”

The Eagles won CHL titles in 2005 and 2007 and also played for the title in 2008 and 2009. Since Tampa also has an affiliate agreement with the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals, players could be sent back and forth between all three franchises. Stewart said relationships between key personnel in the front offices made it a natural arrangement. Len Barrie, one of the Lightning’s owners and the team president, is one of Stewart’s former players, and the team’s director of player personnel, Jim Hammett, is Stewart’s brother-in-law.

“Relationships are very important in any business, and that’s true in hockey, too,” Stewart said. “You want to work with people you know well, and obviously I know those two gentleman extremely well.”

Lightning Deals Artyukhin to Anaheim

The Tampa Bay Lightning have dealt long-time project forward Evgeny Artyukhin to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for prospect forward Drew Miller and a 2010 3rd round pick.

"In acquiring Drew Miller today, we were able to add a character individual, a versatile player with good size and the ability to kill penalties," said Lawton upon making the announcement. "Drew finished the season nicely in Anaheim a year ago and he has played well for the Ducks in the postseason over his career. We'd like to thank Evgeny for his hard work in Tampa Bay and his diligence to improve as a player. We wish him all the best moving forward."

Miller, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, has played in 53 NHL games in his career, all with the Ducks. He has recorded six goals and 15 points in those games. Miller made his NHL regular season debut on October 6, 2007 and netted his first NHL goal on October 17, 2007. He has played in 16 career Stanley Cup Playoff games with Anaheim, recording two goals and three points. He made his playoff debut in the 2007 NHL Playoffs, including Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Ottawa as Anaheim went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Janus in Slovakia's Olympic Camp

According to NHL.com, 2009 Lightning draft pick Jaroslav Janus, a goaltender out of Erie of the OHL, is participating in Slovakia's pre-Olympic camp this week. Janus, a 6th round pick this year by Tampa Bay, is unsigned at the moment, but can re-join the Otters as an overager next year or go to Russia if not signed for goaltending depth by the Lightning this summer. Janus was a second round selection of Lokomotiv Jaroslavl in this year's KHL junior draft.

Janus was named the top goaltender at this past World Junior Championships for Slovakia. In 2007-2008 he was named the Otters' Most Valuable Player. He went 25-20-4 with 3 shutouts this year for Erie with a 3.24 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Complicating matters for Janus this summer in regard to signing with the Lightning is the fact Tampa Bay no longer has an ECHL affiliate and prospects Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski are expected to man the nets in AHL Norfolk.

Other goaltenders at Slovakia's camp include Colorado's Peter Budaj, Montreal's Jaroslav Halak, and former Nashville Predator Jan Lasak.

Rick Wilson Named Lightning Assistant Coach

The Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to terms on a multi-year contract with Rick Wilson, naming him associate coach today, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced. He will be looked upon to coach and groom the team’s defensive corps.

“With 20 years of NHL coaching experience, we believe Rick is exactly what this club needs as an associate coach and we are excited that he has elected to join our staff,” said Lawton upon making the announcement. “As our team develops, we will look to control the game from the blue line; Rick shares that philosophy, understands that concept and will teach our young defensemen to do just that. Additionally, his past relationships ensure he will fit seamlessly with head coach Rick Tocchet, assistant Wes Walz and goaltending coach Cap Raeder to give us a very cohesive staff which can lead our team to long-term success.”

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