Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: Top Five Overage Prospects

As promised, today Bolt Prospects is beginning its release of its Final Rankings for the 2005-2006. To kick off the process we will announce our Top Five Overage Prospects. But first, a brief note about the criteria that defines an "overage prospect". According to Bolt Prospects rules, any Lightning property 24 or older on opening night 2005-2006 who has less than 82 total NHL games player and less than 41 NHL games played in any sinle season is considered an overage prospect. Ryan Vesce, for instance, is inelligible for consideration because he is not a Lightning property. Also, Jimmie Olvestad is inelligble for consideration because he has already cleared the thresholds for graduation by our standards. So, with the legal disclaimer out of the way, here are Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: Top Five Overage Prospects, in alphabetical order:

Tobin to Re-Enter Draft

June 1st came and went and, as expected, the Lightning did not sign LW Mark Tobin allowing him to re-enter the NHL Draft. The 2004 2nd round draft pick was not the only prospect who rights the Lightning let go of today. Under the new CBA, all non-Russian Europeans drafted in 2002 or prior had to be signed by today as a well. As a consequence, the Lightning relenquished the rights to the following prospects: LW Ivan Rachunek (7th Round 1999), C Karri Akkanen (6th Round 2002), D Henrik Bergfors (9th Round 2001) and C Johan Hagglund (4th Round 2000). The Lighning avoided a similar fate with netminder [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena[/url] by signing him prior to the June 1st deadline.

Goaltending Makeover Continues: Bolts Sign Holmqvist

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the signing of Johan Holmqvist to a one-year deal. Holmqvist is the third goalie signed by Tampa Bay this week, joining fellow Swedish Elite League veteran Fredrik Norrena and SM-Liiga (Finland) youngster Karri Ramo. “At the end of the season we sent both Jeff Reese and Corey Schwab, our two goalie coaches, to the World Championships along with our Chief Scout Jake Goertzen,” Feaster said. “They not only watched Johan play and lead his team to the Gold Medal, but they also attended some of his team’s practices and then met with Johan personally. They unanimously recommended we sign him. Clearly, we feel as an organization we have done our homework on Johan. “He is a player who has won championships at multiple levels of competition, and we are confident he is ready to challenge for a spot in Tampa. We are thrilled to welcome him to our organization.” The Lightning now have seven goaltenders under contract: Holmqvist, Norrena, Sean Burke, Ramo, Jonathan Boutin, Gerald Coleman, and Morgan Cey.

Trib Confirms Ramo/Smolenak Signings

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune [url=http://www.tbo.com/sports/MGBX95X6WNE.html]also is reporting the signing[/url] with quotes from Jay Feaster, so it is indeed official. The Lightning GM, commenting on [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak's[/url] work ethic, defensive zone play and consistency, considered his rough edges, says, "The tools - including size, skill, skating ability and reach, are all there if he is willing to pay the price. We look forward to getting him started on his professional career." On [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url], Feaster notes, "Getting Karri Ramo signed and started on his professional career in North America is a very significant event for our organization," as Ramo is considered the top goaltending prospect in the organization.

WDAE: Lightning Sign Ramo and Smolenak

What a difference 24 hours makes. 620 WDAE is reporting the Lightning [url=http://620wdae.com/cc-common/mainheadlines2.html?feed=122843&article=388031]have signed prospects Karri Ramo and Radek Smolenak.[/url] Just a day ago talks between the Lightning and Ramo appeared to be stalled with both sides far apart on the financial particulars of a new deal. However, with the IIHF deadline looming, it appears progress was made quickly today in some heavy eleventh hour negotiations. [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] is rated by Bolt Prospects as the best goaltending prospect in the Lightning organization. This season, at age 19, he was a tandem starter for SM-liiga club HPK and helped his team capture championship gold in Finland's top league. He was fifth in the SM-liiga amongst goaltenders with 20 or more appearances in save percentage at .929 and his 2.18 GAA was 8th in the league. Ramo also served as backup on Finland's U20 World Junior Championships team. [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url] will join fellow sniper prospect [url=justin-keller]Justin Keller[/url] in Springfield next season. He scored 42 goals and 84 points in 65 games this season with Kingston in the OHL to go along with 109 penalty minutes. One of the best pure finishers in the Lightning pipeline, he was amongst the final cuts for the Czech Republic's U20 World Junior Championships team.

"Goaltending Makeover is NOT Finished!"

The Lightning organization has made clear to Bolt Prospects that [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena's[/url] signing is just the first step in a series of offseason moves the team intends to make between the pipes. The Lightning are unsure what the 32 year old Norrena will be able to bring to the table for the team right out of the gates but they expect him to be a legitimate contender for the team's number one job in camp. The team also has indicated it is still looking for a veteran goaltender to play in Springfield next season and intends to place just one prospect netminder with the Falcons and two with the Johnstown Chiefs. On the contract front, negotiations with goaltending prospect [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] and center [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url] continue to move at a painfully slow pace. The Lightning hold Ramo's rights until the summer of 2008, but with Ramo establishing himself at the SM-liiga level and able to earn elite league money in Finland, the situation appears to be at a stalement. The situation looks similarly deadlocked with Jones, who appears to be headed back to Moose Jaw for another year of junior unless progress can be made in negotiations over the summer. The Lightning will hold Jones' rights until the summer of 2007.

Lightning Announce Norrena Signing

The Tampa Bay Lightning have officially announced the signing of goaltender Fredrik Norrena. Norrena will make the trek across the Atlantic and participate in the Lightning's NHL camp this fall. Had the Lightning not signed Norrena by Thursday, he would have become an unrestricted free agent. Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported yesterday that Norrena signed a one-year deal at $525,000 with a $225,000 signing bonus. Norrena and Sean Burke are currently the leaders for the Lightning's No.1 goaltending job, but that is highly likely to change in the coming summer months. The goaltending makeover in Tampa Bay is officially underway, however.

Aftonbladet: Norrena Deal Done

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is reporting Finland Olympic goaltender Fredrik Norrena has agreed to a one year deal with the Lightning. No confirmation or announcement has been made by Tampa Bay. More information to follow.

Finnish Newspaper: Norrena Deal Almost Done

Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat [url=http://www.turunsanomat.fi/urheilu/?ts=1,3:1006:0:0,4:6:0:1:2006-05-27,104:6:381474,1:0:0:0:0:0:]is reporting a deal between the Lightning and goaltending prospect Fredrik Norrena may be imminent.[/url] In the report Norrena is quoted as saying the Lightning have raised their offer to a level Norrena and his agent are comfortable and that a deal appears to be just a signature away. Norrena, 32, has long been recognized as one of the finest goaltenders on the European club hockey scene. He has won championships both in the SM-liiga in Finland with TPS Turku and in the Elitserien with Vastra Frolunda where he tandemed with New York Rangers star netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Norrena has been a fixture for Finland on their Euro Tour teams and this year he won silver as backup on the Finnish Olympic team and bronze as their starter at the World Championships. With his club team, Linkopings, Norrena had a down year posting a subpar, by his lofty standards, .914 save percentage and 2.16 GAA with 4 shutouts. In his career year of 2003-2004 Norrena set the single season Elitserien record with 9 shutouts. That year he also had a .939 save percentage and 1.69 GAA which led the Elitserien in all three categories ahead of Henrik Lundqvist. During the lockout season of 2004-2005, Norrena finished second in the Elitserien with a 1.86 GAA, .935 save percentage and 5 shutouts (tied), numbers that combined bested NHL starters (present and former) Martin Gerber, Mikka Kiprusoff, Tommy Salo and Pasi Nurminen. Norrena was bested by only Lundqvist in all three categories during the 2004-2005 season. If he does indeed sign, the Lightning's interest in signing Brynas netminder Johan Holmqvist is expected to wane.

Site Schedule

Since the Keller signing and the news about the Lightning showing interest in Fredrik Norrena and Johan Holmqvist, our readers may have noticed a lull in the past few days on the site. After the World Championships were completed we were scheduled to begin to unveil our Final Rankings for the 2005-2006 season beginning with the Lightning Top Five Overage Prospects. That has been pushed back beyond the June 1st signing deadline because whichever goaltender signs with the Lightning, Norrena or Holmqvist, will undoubtedly influence that list. After the posting of the top five overagers we will announce our 2005-2006 Honorable Mention Prospects, and there are two this year. These are players who made it onto the ballots of our ranking staff but didn't have enough combined votes to make our top 25 for the Final Rankings. And then, one post a day five players at a time, we'll release our 2005-2006 Final Rankings reflecting who we feel are the Lightning's 25 best prospect in reverse order beginning with numbers 21 through 25. But it doesn't stop there! Bolt Prospects will be using the resources of two draft services (Redline and CSS) to synthesize capsules for about 15 or 16 players who might be of potential interest to the Lightning in the upcoming Entry Draft. So, really, this is just the calm before the storm for Bolt Prospects, and we won't be getting to our "offseason" until after the June draft. In the meantime, we hope our readers will take the opportunity to use some of the site's interactive features, particularly the comments and the reader's blogs (to create your own blog, click "Create Content" from the margin on the left of your screen). Our ultimate goal is to create a more decentralized community approach to covering and analyzing the Lightning and their prospects and we ultimately need your help to make it successful. Over the next few months, we'll be looking for more writers from across the continent, at least, to add greater perspective and more specific expertise in the areas and leagues where the Lightning's youth play. In the meantime, thanks for reading and here's to a great summer.
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