Not a great night statistically for Lightning prospects.
Damian Crisdotero of the St. Pete Times is reporting that in addition to the waiver move made with Radek Smolenak last night, the club has returned 2009 first round pick Carter Ashton to Lethbridge of the WHL after an impressive first camp with the team.
Crisdotero points out something interesting regarding Smolenak's waiver claim: the Blackhawks start the season in Finland this year and are in a situation similar to the Lightning last season when they started in Prague, Czech Republic. The Hawks have a handful of nicked up forwards and therefore are likely to carry a few spare players on the roster that won't be on the team after it returns to North America. If the Hawks waive Smolenak after they come back to the states, the Lightning will get first right to reclaim Smolenak. So, the Lightning may get the benefit of Smolenak getting a handful of NHL games worth of experience and retaining his services to boot.
The Lightning are expected to make more cuts tomorrow, presumably with a view toward leaving the bulk of the Admirals' roster in Norfolk before leaving town to continue their preseason slate.
The Florida Everblades of the ECHL announced Friday that the team has signed former Lightning prospect defenseman John Wessbecker to a contract for the 2009-10 season. Wessbecker's signing comes on the heels of his participation in the AHL Houston Aeros training camp. Wessbecker, a 2005 7th round pick by the Lightning, graduated last spring from the University of Massachusettes-Amherst. The Lightning relinguished their right to Wessbecker by not signing Wessbecker to an NHL entry-level contract by the August deadline.
"John is a big stay-at-home defenseman, I believe with his size and reach he will effectively keep opposing forwards out of our zone," said Everblades coach Malcolm Cameron. "He's not flashy, but he possesses a very good shot, plays physical and moves the puck well."
"I'm extremely excited to be going to Florida, they have a great set-up down there," said John Wessbecker. "I'm ready to see what types of opportunities await me."
The official web site of the Chicago Blackhawks are reporting that the team has claimed Lightning prospect forward Radek Smolenak off waivers today. It was expected that the Lightning would be trimming their 40+ camp roster after Thursday night's preseason game in Winnipeg ahead of Friday night's exhibition scrimmage between the Bolts and Admirals at the Scope in Norfolk, VA. It is presumed that the Lightning placed Smolenak on waivers Thursday with the purposes of reassigning him to the Norfolk Admirals.
I'm starting to believe in James Wright.
Mike Smith was in net and stopped 28 of 31 shots for the victory.
TB - Malone 3 (Stamkos, St. Louis) 04:13
TB - St. Louis 2 (Lecavalier, Tanguay)(PP) 17:21
EDM - Nilsson 1 (Gagner, Gilbert)(PP) 15:52
EDM - Cogliano 1 (Grebeshkov) 19:32
EDM - Gilbert 2 (Brule) 04:13
TB - Foster 1 (Hedman, Wright) 18:23
TB - St. Louis 3 (Malone, Lecavalier)(PP) 4:53
Kind of like last night, I felt this game was more an affirmation of what the Lightning have than an answer to any questions about what they need or don't have. The team is going to have two good scoring lines and a very good power play, as expected. Vinny hating TSN commentator Ray Ferraro went out of his way to complain about what a bad night Vincent Lecavalier was having, and then he goes and assists on the winning goal off the faceoff late in overtime to cap a multi-point night. Yeah Ray, he stinks.
James Wright continues to shine in this marathon week of games that will finally, mercifully, come to an end tomorrow night with the scrimmage in Norfolk. He got an assist on the tying goal by Kurtis Foster where he won a key assist late and set a nice screen in front. He's played better than some guys who are three year AHL pros who should be knocking on the door for NHL jobs.
On the down side: Lukas Krajicek is awful. He just stinks. Turned the puck over on Gilbert's go-ahead goal and took a penalty in overtime that took one or two really big saves by Mike Smith to erase. He just stinks. I spent the last 25 minutes of play hoping that thing on Tocchet's chin would leap out and strangle Lukas. If Brian Lawton doesn't jettison Krajicek, well, I may pull my hair out this season.
Box score from Yahoo Sports.
Karri Ramo allowed 2 goals on 18 shots in Omsk's 2-1 loss to Nizhnekamsk.
Vasily Koshechkin allowed 1 goal on 35 shots and had 2 penalty minutes in Togliatti's 3-1 win over Yulayev.
Dimitry Kazionov was -2 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot on goal in 8:51 in Kazan's 5-4 shootout win over Astana. Former NHLer Alexei Morozov scored the shootout winner for Ak Bars.
Johan Harju had 3 shots and was 65% on draws in 14:09 in Dynamo Moscow's 2-1 loss to Chekhov. Harju has just a lone assist in his first 6 games in Russia since leaving the Swedish Elitserien.
Erie Otters 3 @ Windsor Spitfires 8
C Richard Panik, WSR: 2-0-2, , +2, 0 PIM, *Third Star*
Panik scored his first OHL goal as the second period was coming to a close, then opened the scoring for the third period. He earned Third Star honors for his efforts. With all the stars in the Windsor lineup at last, including the surprise return of Scott Timmons (Panthers), it was undrafted Justin Shugg with a hat trick, two assists, and a plus-four rating for Windsor to lead the offensive show.
Guelph Storm 4 @ Barrie Colts 6
LW/C Alex Hutchings, BAR: 2-0-2, +1, 0 PIM, *Second Star*
Season totals: 3 GP, 2-3-5, +2, 0 PIM
Hutchings, who had 34 goals last season, scored his first two of the year to help Barrie to a 6-4 win over Guelph. Hutchingsâ€™ second goal came while shorthanded.
Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds 5 @ Peterborough Petes 3
RW Kyle DeCoste, SSM: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM (tripping)
Season totals: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIM
After being the worst team in the OHL last season, the Greyhounds are off to an impressive 3-0 start. DeCoste was back in the lineup for the Soo (still no report as to why he missed the second game), but did not register a point. SSM overcame a 2-0 deficit starting the second period to take the win.
Radim Vrbata's revenge!
Antero Nittymaki took the shootout loss while going the distance.
TB - Malone 2 (Hedman, Ohlund) 04:16
PHO - Vrbata 1 (Aucoin)(PP) 04:10
PHO - Mueller 3 (unassisted)(PP) 04:53
TB - Stamkos 1 (Lecavalier, St. Louis)(PP) 10:17
TB - Lecavalier 1 (Downie, Lundin) 03:16
PHO - Upshall 2 (Fiddler, Michalek) 03:50
PHO- Vrbata, Mueller
Seemed to be a game that confirmed what the Lightning have more so than answering questions about what they don't have. This just in: Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos are good. In related news, water is wet.
I liked the look of the Lightning first team power play. They're showing a very meat and potatoes setup right now with four world class shooters and Malone to take out the garbage. That's the kind of power play that doesn't fall into long slumps like the finesse schemes do.
Lecavalier's goal from Downie came on an assist from the Downie's knees. That's why I think Steve Downie eventually wins this job. Stephane Veilleux doesn't have the skill level to make a play like that. At the end of the day, his upside is capped very low and he'll never be more than a Band Aid for that line. They're better off putting Downie out there and seeing what they've got. If he scores 20 goals and 45-50 points and keeps his nose clean, you re-sign him. If not, I think you've got enough defensive depth you can move a chip like Paul Ranger at the deadline to get another solution on Vinny's wing. You may have to do that anyway with Tanguay being a temporary solution on the other side.
Box score from Yahoo Sports.
Damian Crisdotero of the Times has a good article up about the Lightning's current ownership situation.
The team has been under the control of Oren Koules since this summer with Len Barrie having sign off on any player deal of more than $2M. Commissioner Gary Bettman arranged a deal whereby Barrie would get first crack to buy out Koules' stake in the club, but he apparently could not. Koules would then have had the opportunity to buy out Barrie, but he has chosen to rescind his exclusive buyout window, and it looks now as if both men have tried to line up wealthy investors to become majority owners while they would maintain minority stakes.
Barrie's "team," if you want to call it that, still seems like the long shot as his investor, St. Louis real estate magnate Anthony Sansone Jr. apparently hasn't filed with the league to undergo vetting. Sansone's father started a large real estate development and management firm, Sansone Group, and had made a previous attempt to purchase the St. Louis Blues in 2005. However, until he files ownership paperwork, it's hard to interpret Sansone's interest as much more than tire kicking.
That means that Koules' investor, who has filed paperwork, seems like the current favorite to win majority control of the team. Jeffrey Greene, a real estate developer and investor with ties to Miami and Los Angeles, was ranked #559 in Forbes magazine's listing of billionaires this March, checking in with an impressive net worth of $1.3 billion. According to a Forbes story that accompanied his listing in the Forbes 400, which lists his wealth at an even higher $1.4 billion, Greene came from a working class family in Massachussetts and made his first 100K off of telemarketing sales before investing his money in real estate, primarily in Los Angeles, which he eventually rode out to a net worth of $700-800 million. The real genius is that Greene, foreseeing the housing crash, began to put his money into a hedge fund betting against subprime mortgages, which pushed him over the billionaire's hump. That he foresaw the crash and put his money where his mouth was seems to indicate he's one of the smartest guys in the room, certainly smarter than a lot of politicians and economists who played their fiddles while Rome was starting to burn. Greene is now reportedly buying up properties at pennies on the dollar, meaning when the economy turns up he should be well positioned to push his wealth up even more.
Greene is also renowned for spending his money lavishly, which may bode well for a Lightning team that could certainly use a filthy rich owner who is willing to spend like a drunken sailor to win hockey games. His parties, when he decides to throw one in one of his five homes or on his 145-foot yacht, have been attended by such Hollywood dignitaries as Oliver Stone and Paris Hilton and his best man at his wedding was none other than Mike Tyson. (Bolt Prospects wonders if Tyson will bring his tiger to opening night next season if Greene does indeed buy the team.) Whether a man who has dabbled in such Hollywood flamboyance is a perfect fit culturally for the Tampa Bay market, where the average resident makes a much lower wage than pretty much every other large market in America, remains to be seen. However, if Greene were to resolve to step back and let his hockey operations people be the organization's front men, something that seems likely considering he doesn't have the player backgrounds that Koules and Barrie had, my suspicion is that Tampa Bay would welcome Greene and his large sacks full of money with open arms. In any event, Greene has the rare ability to buy the team tomorrow, cash money, with no credit necessary, which is a huge plus to anybody trying to buy anything of value, much less a sports franchise, in the current economic climate.
The question is, considering Koules has let Barrie back into the bidding, one wonders if some compromise may ultimately be worked out where perhaps both men eventually take minority stakes behind Greene? Perhaps that would be the best of all worlds, with Koules and Barrie offering their passion for the sport and Greene offering his considerable business saavy (remember, there's undeveloped property in Channelside that comes with the team and the Forum) and considerable wealth to the group. With Greene having filed ownership paperwork, it seems likely all will be revealed within the next six months.