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.

Lightning Re-Sign Richards To Five Year Deal

The Lightning [url=http://www.tampabaylightning.com/tbl/prdetail.cfm?pressreleaseID=1345]locked up another core player today signing center Brad Richards to a 5 year deal with an average salary of $7.8 million dollars per season.[/url] Richards led the Lightning in scoring last season and in the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup run won both the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The deal pre-empts any potential offer sheets that might've been advanced by other clubs to the potential restricted free agent on July 1st and helps to set the budget for the Lightning's offseason plans to acquire goaltending and blueline help.

It's Official: Stirling New Falcons Bench Boss

Springfield [url=http://www.falconsahl.com/detpages/pressbox3000.shtml]has indeed announced that Steve Stirling will be the new Head Coach of the Springfield Falcons.[/url] Stirling was let go from the New York Islanders after posting an 18-20-4 record last season. Overall, in the NHL, he boasts a 56-49-11-8 record over parts of two seasons on the Island. Prior to that, he was head coach of the Islanders' affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where he posted an 83-51-19-7 record as head coach and in 2001-2002 was named THN Minor Pro Coach of the Year, and before that an assistant with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL. Before joining the pro ranks Stirling coached in the NCAA for 15 years with Division II/III Babson College and Division I Providence College.

Stirling to be Named Springfield's Next Head Coach

The [i]Springfield Republican[/i] is reporting Steve Stirling will be named head coach of the Springfield Falcons at a press conference today. Stirling will be the seventh coach in Falcons history, taking over for the recently reassigned Dirk Graham. The [i] Republican[/i] reports Stirling is the first coach in Springfield with NHL coaching experience since Jimmy Roberts in 1991. Stirling coached the New York Islanders in 2003-2004 and also guided the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers to the Calder Cup Finals in 2001-2002.

World Championships Day Seventeen

Sweden tastes double gold. Andreas Holmqvist was scoreless and even in limited time as Johan Holmqvist stopped all 11 shots he faced in a 4-0 shutout to win gold at the World Championships. The victory comes on the heels of Sweden's golden run at the Olympics. In the bronze medal game, Finland beat Canada 5-0 on the strength of Fredrik Norrena's 37 save shutout performance. Norrena adds World Championship bronze to his Olympic silver medal from earlier this year. So concludes the Lightning's 2005-2006 season for all its prospects, including overage prospects. In the next month Bolt Prospects will release its Final Rankings for the season and preview the June Entry Draft. Thanks to our readers for a great season.

Sypek: Two Frontrunners for Falcons Job

Fran Sypek, in today's Springfield Republican, [url=http://www.masslive.com/sypek/republican/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/1148197406149430.xml&coll=1]says the Lightning have two front runners for the vacant Springfield Falcons coaching job which will be announced tomorrow.[/url] Former Islanders bench boss Steve Stirling and Owen Sound Attack coach Mike Stothers are said to be the favorites for the job. Stothers may be the favorite. Prior to his three years as head coach of the Owen Sound junior program, he was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia Phantoms with Bill Barber, and most importantly, for Jay Feaster's Hershey Bears for two seasons. His recent work tutoring youth at the junior level is a likely positive. His lack of head coaching experience at the pro level may be a negative. Steve Sterling was fired as head coach of the New York Islanders after holding the job for a year and a half. Prior to his stint in the NHL he was head coach of the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
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