It's amazing how much can change in the span of a week. This was supposed to be simply a draft review follow up on my previous blog entry "Five Days Before Ottawa." But, as I mentioned in that article, with the new ownership shoes have been falling fast and furious in Tampa Bay. Since that time the Lightning not only conducted their first draft under the Oren Koules regime, but they also named Barry Melrose Head Coach, locked up Vaclav Prospal to a long term deal, and acquired the negotiating rights for Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts who are expected to ink deals tomorrow with the team. And there's still July 1st to look forward to on Tuesday.
How will these deals work out? Hard to say. Am I enthusiastic about having Vaclav Prospal signed to a contract that will end when he's 38 years old (and having to see his skating at that age)? Not really. Do I have any idea what Barry Melrose's system will look like after 13 years away from hockey? I'd be lying if I said I did (and I'd be lying if I said I was really enthusiastic about Assistant Coach Rick Tocchet's off-ice baggage coming with him). Does Gary Roberts still have any gas in the tank? If he does it'll probably be worth $5 a gallon by the end of this coming season. And, am I really stoked about potentially signing Ryan Malone to a 7 year contract worth nearly $4.5 million dollars a year after a 51 point season that was just 3 points better than Michel Ouellet's last campaign in a Pens uniform? The new ownership is definitely rolling the dice with all of these moves.
Now, that said, it's nice to be shopping for groceries at the Whole Foods rather than the Super Wal-Mart for a change. The thing about a guy like Malone is that he does have the potential to be a second liner, whereas bargain bin players like Jan Hlavac the Lightning signed in previous years due to PS&E's budget constraints had little chance of being legitimate NHL scoring line threats. And while I won't back off my statement that OK Hockey projects the image that the circus is coming to town, I would like to praise them on very professionally handling the draft. There's some temptation for new ownership groups to make gigantic splashes at the draft, and Koules certainly could've tried to climb the ladder to get another first round pick. That wouldn't have been wise for the Lightning given the assets they had on hand, however, so discretion was the better part of valor. Koules polished off his first draft by making a nice PR move selecting David Carle as well, which sends a nice message throughout the hockey community that this organization does have a pretty big heart. So, altogether, it was a pretty good weekend in Ottawa. I thought the Lightning's draft last year was deeper and more on point with what needs to be done to rebuild the forward depth in the organization with it's emphasis on smaller speed-oriented players, but the team did get a franchise player in Stamkos and some nice depth players at the goaltending and defenseman positions in this draft. No complaints there. Next year's draft, now that the Lightning will have a pair of second round picks, will be a bigger opportunity for the organization to replenish depth.
Anyway, on to the players:
Sportsnet in Canada is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to terms with forward Ryan Malone on a 7 year, $31M deal. The report also says that the Lightning are close to inking a one year deal with veteran forward Gary Roberts that could pay as much as $2M. These signings come just a day after acquiring their rights from Pittsburgh for a conditional 2009 4th round pick. The conditional 4th round pick becomes a 2009 3rd round pick if the Bolts sign Malone. Official announcements are expected on Monday.
BoltProspects have updated our prospects rankings lists incorporating the new prospects in the system following the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Also, prospects exiting the system because they were not qualified or otherwise not offered contracts have been removed.
The Staff will be publishing our analysis of the Lightning's 2008 Draft in the near future.
TSN is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired exclusive negotiating rights to forwards Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts by sending a 2009 4th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both Malone and Roberts are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on July 1. If the Lightning sign Malone, the 4th round pick would be upgraded to a 3rd round pick.
Prior to the NHL draft, Malone had said that it would be foolish for a team to trade for his rights as he intended to explore his market value when the free agency period opens on July 1. Roberts had quelled retirement rumors by stating that he intend to continue to play, but that he would not be returning to the Penguins organization.
At today's season ticket holders event, the Times got a shot of Stamkos sporting his new jersey and number. As expected, he's going with #91, which he wore for Sarnia in junior. Get yours soon, because they'll be going fast.
Taken at No.17 of today's Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, Lightning prospect Luca Cunti will be joining the junior club that brought the NHL Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, and Sidney Crosby -- the Rimouski Oceanic.
At first glance, this is a great situation for Cunti, who tried to play last year at St. Cloud State University before the NCAA denied his amateur eligibility status. Cunti later joined the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League.
With Rimouski, Cunti will play on a stocked roster as Rimouski is the host team for the 2009 Memorial Cup.
Three Lightning draft picks - tied for the second most of any NHL team after the New York Islanders - are listed on Hockey Canada's invitation list for Canada's World Junior Championship Team Development Camp July 25-29 in Ottawa. The 2009 WJCs will be begin December 28 in Ottawa.
Representing the Lightning will be WJC gold medal holder and 2008 first round pick Steven Stamkos, 2007 second rounder Dana Tyrell, and 2008 fifth rounder and reigning Memorial Cup MVP, goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
If Stamkos makes the Lightning as expected, it is highly unlikely he'll participate in the tournament - which he should be a lock to make. Tyrell represented Canada in the Summit Series last summer, but did not end up on Canada's WJC club last winter. He should be considered a favorite to make the team because of his combination of work ethic, skill, and the fact he can play a variety of positions and roles. Finally, Tokarski is one of four goalies (three from the WHL) in camp. He joins Nashville first rounder (2008) Chet Pickard, St. Louis second rounder (2008) Jake Allen, and San Jose seventh rounder (2007) Tyson Sexsmith.
The New York Islanders have the most representatives in the 45-player camp with 5.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning has tendered qualifying offers to restricted free agents Ryan Craig, Justin Fletcher, and Jay Rosehill, thus retaining the club's rights on these players.
Qualifying offers were not tendered to former second round pick Mike Egener, goaltender and former third rounder Jonathan Boutin, Zbynek Hrdel, Marek Kvapil, Ryan Munce, and recently acquired defenseman Mario Scalzo Jr., making them unrestricted free agents. Kvapil and Scalzo, along with Stanislav Lascek, had already signed contracts to play with European teams next season.
TSN is reporting former NHL player and player agent Brian Lawton has been named the new vice president of hockey operations for the Lightning. Citing sources, TSN states Lawton will oversee all aspects of Tampa Bay's hockey operations for new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie.
General Manager Jay Feaster will reportedly remain with the club as part of the management team.