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.

Keller Signing Made Official

Jay Feaster moves fast. Earlier this afternoon, the Tampa GM told Bolt Prospects that [url=justin-keller]Justin Keller[/url] of the Kelowna Rockets was close to signing a contract, which could come "this week." According to a Tampa Tribune report, Keller signed with Tampa late this afternoon. As Feaster has stated previously, no signing can be announced until all the proper paper work has been received. Feaster called Keller a "pure goal scorer" while saying this addition gives much-needed goal-scoring depth to the organization. Keller, an eighth round pick of the Bolts in 2003, was the hero of the 2003 Memorial Cup, scoring the game winning goal for Kelowna in a 2-1 win over fellow Bolt prospect Doug O'Brien and Gatineau. He scored 51 goals this year for the Rockets and was runner up for WHL MVP. In addition to his goal-scoring prowess, Keller is regarded as a high character leader with a strong work ethic. Congratulations to Justin on earning his first professional contract.

Talks Re-Opened with Norrena and Other News

Bolt Prospects has learned the Tampa Bay Lightning has indeed re-opened talks with Finnish Olympic goaltender Fredrik Norrena. In fact, the two sides have been in talks since before the 2006 World Championships. Norrena and the Lightning agreed to a contract last summer, but Norrena backed out of the agreement causing Tampa to temporarily shut the door on the chances of signing the Linkoping goaltender in 2006. That door, according to GM Jay Feaster, has not been shut completely, and in fact has now been re-opened. Norrena, a 6'0", 190 pound 7th round pick of the Lightning in 2002, is coming off a 5-0, 37-save shutout vs. Sidney Crosby and Canada at the World Championships in the Bronze Medal game. Bolt Prospects has also been told the Lightning cannot confirm or comment on reports from at least two Swedish newspapers stating the Bolts are in negotitations with World Championship Gold Medal winning goaltender Johan Holmqvist. In addition, negotiations continue with three young prospects:

Holmqvist Rumors Persist

Rumors persist overseas of the Lightning's interest in Swedish World Championship gold medal winningn netminder Johan Holmqvist. Echoing and earlier report in Aftonbladet, Swedish newspaper Expressen [url=http://expressen.se/index.jsp?a=591449]report the Lightning is the frontrunner among three teams interested in Holmqvist's services along with Atlanta and Chicago.[/url] In addition, there are rumors out of Finland that the Lightning may have reopened discussions with goaltender Fredrik Norrena. Bolt Prospects is attempting to confirm. Norrena would have to be signed prior to June 1st when the Lightning are slated to lose his rights under the CBA.
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