Courtnall Returning to Victoria

Victoria Grizzlies General Manager Jackson Penney has informed Bolt Prospects that Lightning 2007 seventh round pick Justin Courtnall will return to the BCHL Grizzlies for another year.

Courtnall had been looking into attending an NCAA school in the fall, but those plans are on hold until the 2009-2010 season.

After starting slow last year with Victoria, Courtnall came on to finish with 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 60 games - good enough for second on the club by just a point.

The winger played the previous season with Burnaby of the BCHL.

Courtnall's father, former NHLer Geoff Courtnall, is the head coach of Victoria. Lightning co-owner Len Barrie serves as the Grizzlies' president. (Times-Colonist photo)

Bolts Extend Mike Smith

TSN is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Mike Smith to a 2 year contract extension. Smith has one year left on his current contract, acquired from the Dallas Stars as part of the trade deadline blockbuster deal for Brad Richards.

Tampa Tribune Lightning beat writer Eric Erlendsson is reporting that Smith will make $2M for the 2009-2010 season increasing to $2.4M for the 2010-2011 season.

"It goes without saying that Mike has a bright future in the Lightning organization," Vice President of Hockey Operations Brian Lawton said. "It is important in our plan to have locked up Mike, along with Ollie (Kolzig), to solidify our goaltending situation this season and beyond."

While Lawton's statement confirmed Smith as a central cog in the future of the Lightning, his comments could be interpreted to imply that the Lightning might be interested in locking up Olaf Kolzig beyond the 2007-2008 season. If so, this would certainly cast some doubt on the future of goaltending prospect Karri Ramo within the organization.

Wanvig to Russia

According to EuroHockey.net, former Bolt Kyle Wanvig has signed with Amur Tigers Khabarovsk of the new KHL in Russia.

Wanvig played 11 games for the Lightning over the past two seasons, registering one goal and a minus-1 rating. He was AHL Norfolk's leading scorer last year with 23 goals and 56 points in 62 games. Wanvig has played 75 NHL games in his career, totaling 6 goals and 9 assists in limited duty.

The unrestricted free agent was acquired by the Lightning on February 1, 2007, from Atlanta with Stephen Baby for Andy Delmore and Andre Deveaux.

Lecavalier's Lifetime Deal

TSN is reporting the Lightning have agreed to terms on the re-signing of Vincent Lecavalier to an 11 year, $85 million dollar contract. New owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie have publicly stated their desire to make the franchise center a member of the organization for life, including a role with the team after his retirement.

In 710 career NHL games Lecavalier has 273 goals and 602 points, including 8 straight 20 goal seasons, 5 straight 30 goal seasons, and 2 straight 40 goal seasons. Consistency will get you about $7.73 million dollars a year, or so it seems.

Gratton Returns for Another Year

The Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed center Chris Gratton to a one-year, $1.25M contract. With the number of off-season acquisitions made by the Lightning's new ownership group, there was much speculation that Gratton would not be returning. However, a serious knee injury to center Jeff Halpern at the World Championships increased the liklihood of Gratton's return.

“We are extremely excited to have Chris back in the fold for next season,” vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. “He is a true professional that fits in perfectly with our plan to be a tough team to play against. We look forward to having a healthy Chris Gratton on the ice next season.”

With the Gratton signing, the Lightning currently have 16 forwards on one-way contracts.

Jay Feaster Resigns as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Damian Crisdotero of the St. Pete Times is reporting on his blog that Jay Feaster has resigned as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Feaster ends a run with the Lightning organization of nearly ten years which began with his hiring as Assistant GM under Jacques Demers in 1998 and over six years as General Manager following the firing of former GM Rick Dudley in 2002.

Feaster's two biggest deals in Tampa Bay involved one trade he did make, and even more importantly, one trade he never made. The former Hershey Bears GM made the pivotal deal with Columbus in 2004 to trade former first round pick Alex Svitov for defenseman Darryl Sydor, who solidified the Lightning blueline on the way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup. That Stanley Cup would not have been possible were it not for Feaster's steadfast resolve not to trade franchise player Vincent Lecavalier. Feaster's behind the scenes role as peacekeeper between Lecavalier and former Head Coach John Tortorella also helped to pave the way for two Southeast Division titles, a Stanley Cup, and four straight Stanley Cup Playoff appearances between the 2002-2003 and 2006-2007 seasons.

BoltProspects wishes Feaster, who has always been a gracious and forthright friend to this website, the best of luck in whatever future endeavors he pursues.

Lightning Not Done On Defense/Feaster Out?

Apparently the local media got some face time with new-GM-in-waiting Brian Lawton this afternoon, and Erik Erlendsson reports on his blog that Lawton is not done tweaking the Lightning's blueline, contrary to earlier talk by Len Barrie that the team was done making moves. Thank goodness. The corps, as currently constituted on paper, is softer than a stick of butter left out in the sun and greener than the Incredible Hulk. The Lightning desperately need a veteran stay-at-home thumper capable of playing a minimum of 18-20 minutes a night. They need a defenseman who, if nothing else, Coach Melrose can throw out on the shift after goals or on the penalty kill in momentum-changing scenarios to keep the game from tilting against them. They also need that player to have a more physical edge to move players out from in front of Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig's crease. Forwards like Jussi Jokinen or Michel Ouellet are rumored to be the bait.

Lawton also cleared up questions regarding last year's assistant coaches Mike Sullivan and Jeff Reese. Both are still under contract but are actively seeking work elsewhere.

Claude Loiselle and Tom Kurvers will split Assistant GM duties. Loiselle will handle contract issues while Kurvers will be more active in player personnel decisions.

And finally, in sadder news, rumors continue to crescendo that GM Jay Feaster is about to have the final three years of his contract bought out so he can depart the organization.

And the shoes keep dropping.

Lightning Make Hockey Operations Signings Official

The Lightning have also announced the signings of Tom Kurvers to the position of Assistant GM, Jim Hammett as Director of Player Personnel, and Greg Malone as Head Professional Scout.

Lightning Make Assistant Coach Signings Official

The Tampa Bay Lightning have officially announced the signing of Rick Tocchet and Wes Walz as assistant coaches. In addition, in one of the worst guarded secrets of the offseason, the Lightning have also lured Cap Raeder out of the San Jose organization and signed him as an assistant coach as well. Raeder served as an assistant to Head Coach Barry Melrose in Los Angeles during Melrose's first stint in the NHL.

Tampa Signs Brandon Bochenski

Update: TSN is now confirming that Tampa Bay has signed Brandon Bochenski to a two-year deal. Like Konopka's deal, the first year of the deal is a two-way contract with a one-way deal for the final year..

This morning, NHLPA.com was indicating that enigmatic right winger Brandon Bochenski had signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning that would pay $500k at the NHL level.

“Brandon is a proven player at the AHL level with more than 100 games of experience in the NHL,” vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. “Adding him for the next two years continues to address our need to build organizational depth.”

The former UND standout was a teammate with Lightning defensive prospect Matt Smaby in 2003-2004 during Smaby's freshman season with the Fighting Sioux. Bochenski, a prolific college and AHL scorer that has had trouble translating his dynamic offense at the NHL level, would be a huge boost to a Norfolk Admirals team that suffered through an anemic offense last season. Bochenski last played in the AHL for the Admirals during the 2006-2007 season, putting up an astronomical 33 goals and 33 assists in just 35 games. Bochenski has scored 89 goals and 93 assists in 143 career AHL games for Binghamton and Norfolk.

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