Here's what we learned this week in communication with the Lightning:
2006 first round draft pick Riku Helenius made a successful return from major shoulder surgery when he suited up for Finland at an Under-19 tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia last month. The Lightning was in attendance when the goaltender played his first game since early autumn, but Finland was on their heels all night and Russia scored two power play goals to beat Helenius and Finland 4-0. Finland didn't fare much better in Helenius' second game, a 5-1 loss to Sweden.
While the GAA may not look ideal for the first rounder, the Lightning said he played well. The important thing to look at here is he's playing again and is in good health. In fact, after missing nearly all the 2006-2007 season, a healthy Helenius is now working out twice a day.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, citing the Sports Network, the Lightning have re-signed forward Andreas Karlsson to a one-year deal.
The 31-year-old Karlsson scored three goals and recorded six assists in 53 games last season for Tampa Bay.
"Andreas Karlsson is a very versatile hockey player who spent the past year learning our system and coming to understand what John Tortorella demands of his players," said executive vice president and general manager Jay Feaster in making the announcement. "Karlsson is a very good skater who can play center and is an effective face-off man and a good penalty killer. He demonstrated in the postseason that he can also play left wing, and can do so as part of a top-two line scenario when needed."
Team Russia defeated Sweden 3-1 today to take home the bronze medal at the World Championships. Starter Alexander Eremenko made 32 stops on 33 shots faced for the win. Lightning prospect netminder Vasily Koshechkin again served the role of backup. The young goaltender finished the tournament 3-0 with a 2.67 GAA and .879 save percentage.
In the gold medal match, Canada defeated Finland 4-2. Columbus forward Rick Nash was named tournament MVP.
Russia was defeated 2-1 today in their semifinal matchup against Finland, meaning the Russians will now play Sweden on Sunday in the bronze medal match. Goaltender Alexander Eremenko allowed 2 goals on 19 shots in the game to take the loss. Eremenko, who is a long time veteran of the Russian national team in international teams, entered the tournament as backup to Lightning prospect Vasily Koshechkin but outplayed the young netminder to take his starting job for the medal round.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is confirming the Lightning have re-signed Jason Ward to a two year deal on his blog. The contract is slated to pay Ward an average of $675,000 a year. Ward was acquired from the LA Kings at last year's trade deadline and quickly ascended to a scoring line job on Brad Richards' wing. In an ideal world, Ward would be a third liner, but given the Lightning's depth issues he could find himself back on Richards' line next season.
The Trib also reports contract negotiations may be at an impasse with formed 2001 3rd round pick Evgeny Artyukhin. Artyukhin has turned down a 1 year $475,000 offer from the Lightning and has reportedly signed a deal with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Superleague. According to Erlendsson, GM Jay Feaster has no plans to make a counteroffer to Artyukhin's agent Mark Gandler.
The Sarnia Sting made a pair of surprising selections in the 8th round of yesterday's OHL Priority Draft, choosing Lightning prospect defenseman Kevin Quick and his younger brother Kyle from Salisbury Prep. The elder Quick was a particularly unorthodox selection considering he is nearly three years older than many of the selections from this draft class. Speculation abounds that both of the Quicks, both defensemen, will report to Sarnia this Fall. Kevin had previously committed to play college hockey with the University of Michigan, but if he chooses to play in the OHL next season the Lightning will likely sign the slick skating defenseman next summer; much earlier than had been previously expected.
The numbers haven't necessarily been pretty, but Lightning prospect netminder Vasily Koshechkin is now 3-0 for Russia at the ongoing World Championships. Koshechkin and the Russians defeated Switzerland today 6-3 today in their qualifying round matchup. Koshechkin stopped 13 shots in the game and also recorded an assist on a first period Ilya Kovalchuk goal. Russia and Sweden, both 4-0 in Group E, will square off tomorrow in their final game of the qualifying round.
According to TSN.ca, Russia is close to signing a new transfer agreement with the IIHF. For the past two seasons, Russia has refused to enter into a deal with the IIHF making it difficult for NHL teams to sign their Russian prospects and bring them to North America. Such a deal would remove potential roadblocks to the signing of prospects Denis Kazionov, Dimitri Kazionov and Vasily Koshechkin this summer. The team has expressed interest in signing all three players within the past year.
Eurohockey.net is confirming that defenseman Joe Rullier has signed a contract to play with Lukko Rauma of the Finnish SM-liiga next season. Rullier was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks organization at the trade deadlime this season in exchange for defenseman Doug O'Brien. Rullier's departure leaves the Lightning in need of a veteran defenseman to anchor the blueline corps in Norfolk next season.
At the end of two periods in Moscow today at the 2007 World Championships, Russia and Lightning goaltending prospect Vasily Koshechkin had a comfortable 4-1 lead on Finland and seemed to be cruising to a 3-0 record.
Without being able to watch the game, it's unclear whether Russia stopped playing or Finland turned it on - or a little of both - but Russia had to get a late insurance goal that ended up being the game winner to beat Finland 5-4.
Koshechkin had stopped 12 of 13 shots through two periods before being peppered in the third to end up being 21 for 25 in the save department. Taking the loss for Finland was Lightning draft pick and Columbus Blue Jacket Fredrik Norrena.