For fans and followers of the Lightning farm system, there's a very telling article in the St. Pete Times today by Damian Cristodero detailing the condition of the Lightning's prospects, in particular the forwards, as the club approaches the 2007 draft.
The story includes honest and objective opinions from Lightning GM Jay Feaster and Head Scout Jake Goertzen. Cristodero also includes the opinions of Barry Trapp, former head scout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
According to the St. Pete Times today, disgruntled winger Evgeny Artyukhin and his agent, Mark Gandler, have turned down a three year offer from the Lightning. The Times reported the deal was the same contract recently signed by Nick Tarnasky.
"We were told, " Feaster said, "that they are not the same player."
The Lightning's offer, which would have paid $500, 000, $525, 000 and $550, 000, was a bump from its previously refused offer of one-year, $475, 000.
"I thought it was a fair offer on our part and something that would be attractive to the player, but it appears that's not the case, " Feaster said. "I thought this might be a way to move off the position of a one-year contract and show the player we are serious and we do like him."
The Tampa Bay Lightning has released a report confirming the club has signed left wing Jan Hlavac to a one year contract. Hlavac has spent the last three season playing in Europe, most recently with Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga. Hlavac helped Sparta Praha to the Czech Extraliga championship this year with 8 goals and 2 assists in 16 playoff games.
TSN.ca is reporting the Lightning have traded a 2nd round pick in either 2007 or 2008 to the Florida Panthers in exchange for center Chris Gratton. Gratton, who was the Lightning's 1st round pick in 1993, will be making his third tour of duty with the Lightning. In 1008 career NHL games he has scored 204 goals and 544 points. In 81 games last season Gratton scored 13 goals and 35 points in 81 games with 94 penalty minutes. His career season came in 1996-1997 with the Lightning when he had 30 goals and 62 points in 82 games to go along with 201 penalty minutes. Gratton signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers the subsequent offseason and left Tampa with the infamous Phil Esposito smudged fax fiasco. Gratton returned in 1999 from Philadelphia and served as the Lightning's captain during the 1999-2000 season before being dealt to the Buffalo Sabres in a multi-player deal that included then-rookie defenseman Cory Sarich. Gratton will assume the Lightning's third line center role next season.
Eurohockey.net reports Denis Kazionov has transferred from HC Tver to CSKA of the Russian Superleague. The younger Kazionov brother had 2 goals and 3 points in 24 games with Tver last season. The 19 year old center was rumored to be headed to North America this summer along with his brother, but it remains to be seen if both the Lightning and the Kazionovs follow through on earlier plans.
The Tribune reports the deal for "Tar-nasty" is 3 years. Wanvig, who was a second round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2001 and was MVP of the 2001 Memorial Cup for Red Deer (WHL), signed a one-year, two-way deal.
''Nick Tarnasky has all the makings of a true dominant power forward in the NHL,'' Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. ''He has size, strength, solid skating ability, willingness to commit himself to the defensive side of the game and an under-developed ability to finish that even he is just starting to harness and explore.
One of the things that tends to get lost in the shuffle of watching the Lightning's young prospects develop is just how much emphasis the team puts on drafting intelligent young men with a surplus of character. Case in point: On Friday Mike Lundin was named to the Hockey East All-Academic team for the fourth straight season to wrap up a sterling academic career with the University of Maine. For his career acheivements, Lundin was named a 'Distinguished Scholar' after posting a 3.0 or better GPA for four straight years in college.
The Lightning and Lundin are currently in negotiations regarding his first pro contract and the young defenseman is likely to begin his pro career next season with Norfolk of the AHL.
Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings
2006-2007 was a difficult season for the prospects of the Tampa Bay Lightning. After two years of modest improvement with their full affiliation in Springfield of the AHL and a large crop of talented junior scorers coming into the organization, expectations were that this was the season the Falcons and the Lightning organization would finally turn the corner. Expectations were not met, and the Falcons took a large step backward with a miserable second half of the season that led to the dissolving of the affiliation. The Lightning also saw ties severed with their ECHL affiliate in Johnstown after two years of control over hockey operations only led to a pair of 5th place divisional finishes.
The Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings reflect the painful lessons of a campaign which, for the Lightning's minor league system, was one of the worst in recent memory. As a consequence of overall poor play indicating a lack of depth, the Bolt Prospects staff voted unanimously to trim the Top-25 rankings to 20 for the first time in the history of the site. Make no mistake, the decision is an indictment of what we saw from the Lightning's prospects in 2006-2007. There are passengers in this organization, and we suspect several of them will begin to be culled from the organizational roster during the off season. The rankings are also an indictment of the promising class of young rookie forwards who failed so spectacularly to make an impact in their pro debuts. On the bright side though, they also show the strength the organization has developed at the goaltending and defenseman positions. Of our top ten prospects, only one (Blair Jones) is a forward, while four are goaltenders and five are blueliners.
So, without further adieu, here are the Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings. They are the last of a year we'd rather forget and a starting point on the way to 2007-2008, a new season and a new affiliation with Norfolk of the AHL that we hope will bring redemption for some of the organization's young talent.
According to the news web site Michigan Live (MLive.com), Lightning defensive prospect and University of Michigan commitment Kevin Quick has been invited to Team USA's 2007 National Junior Team Evaluation Camp this summer in preparation for the 2008 World Junior Championships. The tournament will be played in Pardubice and Liberec in the Czech Republic in early January.
Quick hails from Buffalo, New York and has just completed prep school in Salisbury, Connecticut. The Lightning has not had a drafted prospect on the USA WJC team since Paul Mara in 1998.
Six weeks after more or less terminating their ECHL affiliation with the Johnstown Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Lightning issued a press release today reporting that the team has entered into a one-year affiliation agreement with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL. The Sea Wolves will serve as the Lightning's primary ECHL player developmental home for the 2007-2008 season. This marks a return by the Lightning organization to the Gulf Coast region and the ECHL Southeast Division, as Tampa had a multi-season affiliation with the Pensacola Ice Pilots prior to the affiliation with Johnstown.