The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Janne Niskala to a one-year contract, it was announced by owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie. Niskala was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday in exchange for a sixth-round draft choice in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
â€œWe have targeted Janne for some time and we like his ability to contribute offensively,â€ said Koules and Barrie upon making the announcement. â€œHe has an upside that will be beneficial to the Lightning and we hope he can make our team and improve us on the blueline.â€
TSN reports the Bolts have signed Norfolk Admiral fan favorite David Koci to a one-year, two-way deal. The site claims Koci will receive 525,000 in the NHL and 100,000 in the AHL.
Koci had 2 assists in 21 games -- along with 57 PIM -- for Norfolk last year after being acquired on loan from Rockford in exchange for Justin Fletcher.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting on his blog that a deal has been struck between the Lightning and veteran netminder Olaf Kolzig. Terms are not known at this time. Kolzig, 38, was 25-21-6 last season with a 2.91 GAA, .892 save percentage, and 1 shutout for the Washington Capitals. Update: The deal with Kolzig is apparently complete and the terms are reportedly 1 year at a base salary of $1.5M plus bonuses.
The move likely pushes prospect Karri Ramo back down to the AHL level to start next season as the Lightning are also reportedly close to extending goaltender Mike Smith's contract, according to Damian Crisdotero of the Times' blog.
Crisdotero also reports the Lightning have signed winger Adam Hall to a three year deal. The 27 year old grinder had 2 goals and 6 points in 46 games last season with Pittsburgh to go along with 24 penalty minutes. His career season came in 2005-2006 with Nashville when he potted 14 goals to go along with 29 points in 75 games.
Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner Len Barrie has confirmed that the Bolts have signed unrestricted free agent Radim Vrbata to a 3 year, $9M contract today. Vrbata had a breakout season for the Phoenix Coyotes last year scoring 27 goals and 56 points in 72 games. Vrbata had spent previous years with the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks organizations before the 27 year old decided to pursue free agency this off-season.
TSN is reporting that potential UFA forward Brian Rolston has informed the Lightning he will wait until tomorrow morning before deciding whether or not to sign with the team or test the free agent market. Owner Oren Koules told Damian Crisdotero on the St. Pete Times blog that Rolston's decision largely hinges on Rolston's desire to choose a city to settle down in, and his desire to play in a "hockey city" where his six year old son can play in a good youth hockey program.
ESPN is reporting that recently hired talent evaluator Tom Kurvers will replace Claude Loiselle as the Lightning's Assistant General Manager. There was no definitive word on whether Loiselle will continue in his role as the General Manager of Tampa's AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.
Michael Russo of the Minnesota Star-Tribune is reporting on his blog that the Lightning have struck a deal to acquire the rights to potential UFA winger Brian Rolston. Rolston, 35, has scored 96 goals over the course of the past three seasons with the Minnesota Wild.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ST. PAUL, Minn. â€” The Minnesota Wild have traded forward Brian Rolston to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional draft pick. The Wild will get a selection in either the 2009 or 2010 draft. The pick will depend on whether Tampa Bay re-signs Rolston before they know what pick Minnesota will get in the deal. Rolston is due to become a free agent July 1, but by making the move the Lightning get a day of exclusive negotiations with the forward. He scored 31 goals and had 59 points last season. The move caps a busy weekend for the Lightning, who acquired the rights to Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts from Pittsburgh on Saturday. â€œAs we said earlier this week and we are trying to prove after making our deal with Pittsburgh (Saturday), we will work feverishly to improve the Lightning team for the 2008-09 season,â€ owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie said in a joint statement. â€œWe believe getting the Lightning a head start in the negotiating and signing process can help us secure the players we are targeting. Nothing is guaranteed here, but we hope to have a chance to get another quality player in a Lightning uniform sooner rather than later.â€
It's amazing how much can change in the span of a week. This was supposed to be simply a draft review follow up on my previous blog entry "Five Days Before Ottawa." But, as I mentioned in that article, with the new ownership shoes have been falling fast and furious in Tampa Bay. Since that time the Lightning not only conducted their first draft under the Oren Koules regime, but they also named Barry Melrose Head Coach, locked up Vaclav Prospal to a long term deal, and acquired the negotiating rights for Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts who are expected to ink deals tomorrow with the team. And there's still July 1st to look forward to on Tuesday.
How will these deals work out? Hard to say. Am I enthusiastic about having Vaclav Prospal signed to a contract that will end when he's 38 years old (and having to see his skating at that age)? Not really. Do I have any idea what Barry Melrose's system will look like after 13 years away from hockey? I'd be lying if I said I did (and I'd be lying if I said I was really enthusiastic about Assistant Coach Rick Tocchet's off-ice baggage coming with him). Does Gary Roberts still have any gas in the tank? If he does it'll probably be worth $5 a gallon by the end of this coming season. And, am I really stoked about potentially signing Ryan Malone to a 7 year contract worth nearly $4.5 million dollars a year after a 51 point season that was just 3 points better than Michel Ouellet's last campaign in a Pens uniform? The new ownership is definitely rolling the dice with all of these moves.
Now, that said, it's nice to be shopping for groceries at the Whole Foods rather than the Super Wal-Mart for a change. The thing about a guy like Malone is that he does have the potential to be a second liner, whereas bargain bin players like Jan Hlavac the Lightning signed in previous years due to PS&E's budget constraints had little chance of being legitimate NHL scoring line threats. And while I won't back off my statement that OK Hockey projects the image that the circus is coming to town, I would like to praise them on very professionally handling the draft. There's some temptation for new ownership groups to make gigantic splashes at the draft, and Koules certainly could've tried to climb the ladder to get another first round pick. That wouldn't have been wise for the Lightning given the assets they had on hand, however, so discretion was the better part of valor. Koules polished off his first draft by making a nice PR move selecting David Carle as well, which sends a nice message throughout the hockey community that this organization does have a pretty big heart. So, altogether, it was a pretty good weekend in Ottawa. I thought the Lightning's draft last year was deeper and more on point with what needs to be done to rebuild the forward depth in the organization with it's emphasis on smaller speed-oriented players, but the team did get a franchise player in Stamkos and some nice depth players at the goaltending and defenseman positions in this draft. No complaints there. Next year's draft, now that the Lightning will have a pair of second round picks, will be a bigger opportunity for the organization to replenish depth.
Anyway, on to the players: