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.”

Smaby, Lightning Avoid Arbitration

The Tampa Bay Lightning are reporting via Twitter that the Bolts have resigned restricted free agent defenseman Matt Smaby to a one-way, two-year contract avoiding a scheduled salary arbitration hearing next week. The team reports the contract pays Smaby $500k the first year, and 550k the second year. After starting the 2008-09 season in Norfolk, Smaby was recalled to Tampa amidst a rash of blueline injuries, playing the final 43 games of the NHL season recording 4 assists and 50 penalty minutes. Smaby has played a total of 149 AHL games with the Norfolk Admirals and Springfield Falcons accumulating 5 goals and 13 assists along with 139 penalty minutes.

Smaby, 24, was a 2nd round pick by the Lightning in the 2003 NHL entry draft out of Shattucks-St. Mary's high school in Minnesota before playing three years for the University of North Dakota Fightning Sioux where he captained the team to an NCAA Championship Finals appearance against the University of Denver. He was signed by Tampa on April 14, 2006 to a three-year entry level contract.

Lightning Dump Vrbata; Acquire Fedoruk and Hale

The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired left wing Todd Fedoruk and defenseman David Hale from the Phoenix Coyotes today in exchange for right wing Radim Vrbata, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today.

"We are pleased to make a trade today that makes good sense for both teams," Lawton said upon making the announcement. "Lightning fans will be pleased to see we have added some size and toughness up front with Todd, while David helps us continue to add depth to our blue line. At the same time, Radim moves back to Phoenix where he has experienced some success in the past."

Bolts Sign Lauri Tukonen; Resign Blair Jones

Confirming a story that broke earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed prospect center Blair Jones and right wing Lauri Tukonen, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today.

Jones, whose 3 year entry-level contract expired at the end of last season, finished as the Norfolk Admirals’ second leading scorer last season and was the only player to appear in all 80 games. The Lightning acquired Tukonen’s rights from the Dallas Stars last November in exchange for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson.

Jones, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Central Butte, Saskatchewan, set career highs with 20 goals, 34 assists and 54 points in 80 games for the Admirals last season. He ranked second in scoring, fourth in goals, second in assists and tied for second in power play goals (8) with Norfolk. He also established a new AHL Admirals franchise record with 271 shots on goal, ranking third in the American Hockey League. The 22 year old center has appeared in 155 games with the Admirals over the past two seasons, tallying 34 goals and 96 points. He ranks 12th all-time in AHL Admirals scoring and is just four points away from becoming the tenth player to record 100 points in his AHL Admirals career. Jones has appeared in 200 career AHL contests between Norfolk and the Springfield Falcons, recording 39 goals and 117 points. Jones was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the fourth round (102nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He has appeared in 24 career National Hockey League contests with the Lightning, recording one goal and three points.

Tukonen, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound native of Hyvinkaa, Finland, skated in 35 games in the Finnish Elite League last season. He scored five goals and 13 points in 21 games with Ilves Tampere while netting three goals and eight points in 14 games with Lukko Rauma. Originally drafted 11th overall by Los Angeles in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Tukonen, 22, has skated in five career games with the Kings (2006-07 and 2007-08). He has appeared in 185 career American Hockey League games with the Manchester Monarchs, tallying 36 goals, 103 points and 74 penalty minutes. Tukonen skated in three World Junior Championships for Finland from 2004-2006, collecting Bronze Medals in 2004 and 2006. In 2006, he finished third in tournament scoring with three goals and 10 points in seven games.

Tukonen to Tampa?

According to a transfer listing on eliteprospects.com, the Lightning have signed former L.A. Kings first rounder Lauri Tukonen to a one year deal. Tukonen was acquired from Dallas last November by the Lightning for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson. Tukonen played for Lukko and Ilves in his native Finland last year, totaling 8 goals and 13 assists in 35 games before injuring his knee. He traveled to Tampa last April to have the injury inspected by Lightning doctors. He was recently qualified as a restricted free agent by the Lightning. No official announcement of the signing has been made by Tampa Bay.

Update: No official press release has been publish by the Lightning yet, but the Club has confirmed the signings of both Tukonen and Blair Jones via the TBLightning twitter account.

Mike Butters Interview

Stephen Heisler over at the American Junior Hockey blog posted a great interview with Norfolk GM Mike Butters. Butters discusses his vast history starting and building hockey programs at different levels, and talks about some of the challenges with the Lightning farm system and his first year as the Admirals GM.

Bolt Prospects 2009 NHL Entry Draft Supplemental Rankings

With two weeks now passed since a very successful 2009 NHL Entry Draft and an equally successful Young Guns prospect camp, Bolt Prospects has released a supplemental update to its 2008-2009 Final Rankings. The rankings primarily reflect the addition of the team's recent draftees, as well as recent contractual moves by the team and its prospects.

Lightning Sign G Antero Niittymaki

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent goaltender Antero Niittymaki today, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the contract is a one-year deal for just under $600k.

“We fully recognized the need to add an experienced back-up goaltender this summer and today we feel we’ve accomplished that goal,” Lawton said. “Not only is Antero already an established number two in the NHL who can steal games, but we feel he is very capable of working with Mike Smith to give us a formidable 1-2 punch in goal.”

Niittymaki, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, has played in 161 career NHL games, all with the Philadelphia Flyers. He has posted a 62-61-23 record with a .901 save percentage and a 3.01 goals-against average. In 2005-06 Niittymaki was tied for third among rookie goaltenders in wins with 23, the most by a Flyers rookie since 1986-87. He was also named the NHL Defensive Player of the Week for the period ending January 8.

A native of Turku, Finland, Niittymaki won the Silver Medal with his native country at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, posting a 5-1-0 record, 1.34 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage with three shutouts. He was named to the Media All-Star team and was recognized as the Best Goaltender as well as the Tournament Most Valuable Player.

Hedman Inks Rookie Deal with Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Victor Hedman to a standard three-year rookie contract today, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced. Hedman was selected by the Lightning with the second overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the first time in franchise history Tampa Bay has picked second overall. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the contract has an annual salary of $900,000 (rookie max) with bonuses and incentives pushing the NHL cap hit of the contract to $3.75M annually. The NHL requires bonuses and incentives to count against the salary cap regardless of whether the team actually pays them out to the player.

"We are thrilled to be able to take this next step with Victor today,” said Lawton upon making the announcement. "He has a bright future and we intend on him being a member of the Lightning for a long time. We are excited to get his signing behind us so he can solely focus on hockey and the continued development of his game.”

At yesterday's press conference introducing Hedman to the media prior to the start of the Lightning prospects camp, Hedman elected to wear jersey #77 in honor of famed NHL defenseman Ray Bourque.

Bolts Continue to Bolster Blueline; Sign Kurtis Foster

The Tampa Bay Lightning is reporting via Twitter that the Club has agreed to terms with former Minnesota Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster. According to Damien Cristodero of the St. Pete Times, Foster signed a 1 year deal for $600k.

In addition to his imposing 6'05" and 230 lb frame, Foster brings a booming shot from the right point on the power play adding dimension missing from the Lighting power play. In 2005-06, Foster led all Minnesota blueliners with 10 goals and 28 points as a rookie. Foster managed just 10 games during the 2008-09 season after breaking a leg in March 2008. He has amassed 21 goals and 56 assists in just 186 NHL games resulting in an almost half-a-point-per-game career defenseman.

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