The Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed center Chris Gratton to a one-year, $1.25M contract. With the number of off-season acquisitions made by the Lightning's new ownership group, there was much speculation that Gratton would not be returning. However, a serious knee injury to center Jeff Halpern at the World Championships increased the liklihood of Gratton's return.
â€œWe are extremely excited to have Chris back in the fold for next season,â€ vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. â€œHe is a true professional that fits in perfectly with our plan to be a tough team to play against. We look forward to having a healthy Chris Gratton on the ice next season.â€
With the Gratton signing, the Lightning currently have 16 forwards on one-way contracts.
Damian Crisdotero of the St. Pete Times is reporting on his blog that Jay Feaster has resigned as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Feaster ends a run with the Lightning organization of nearly ten years which began with his hiring as Assistant GM under Jacques Demers in 1998 and over six years as General Manager following the firing of former GM Rick Dudley in 2002.
Feaster's two biggest deals in Tampa Bay involved one trade he did make, and even more importantly, one trade he never made. The former Hershey Bears GM made the pivotal deal with Columbus in 2004 to trade former first round pick Alex Svitov for defenseman Darryl Sydor, who solidified the Lightning blueline on the way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup. That Stanley Cup would not have been possible were it not for Feaster's steadfast resolve not to trade franchise player Vincent Lecavalier. Feaster's behind the scenes role as peacekeeper between Lecavalier and former Head Coach John Tortorella also helped to pave the way for two Southeast Division titles, a Stanley Cup, and four straight Stanley Cup Playoff appearances between the 2002-2003 and 2006-2007 seasons.
BoltProspects wishes Feaster, who has always been a gracious and forthright friend to this website, the best of luck in whatever future endeavors he pursues.
Apparently the local media got some face time with new-GM-in-waiting Brian Lawton this afternoon, and Erik Erlendsson reports on his blog that Lawton is not done tweaking the Lightning's blueline, contrary to earlier talk by Len Barrie that the team was done making moves. Thank goodness. The corps, as currently constituted on paper, is softer than a stick of butter left out in the sun and greener than the Incredible Hulk. The Lightning desperately need a veteran stay-at-home thumper capable of playing a minimum of 18-20 minutes a night. They need a defenseman who, if nothing else, Coach Melrose can throw out on the shift after goals or on the penalty kill in momentum-changing scenarios to keep the game from tilting against them. They also need that player to have a more physical edge to move players out from in front of Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig's crease. Forwards like Jussi Jokinen or Michel Ouellet are rumored to be the bait.
Lawton also cleared up questions regarding last year's assistant coaches Mike Sullivan and Jeff Reese. Both are still under contract but are actively seeking work elsewhere.
Claude Loiselle and Tom Kurvers will split Assistant GM duties. Loiselle will handle contract issues while Kurvers will be more active in player personnel decisions.
And finally, in sadder news, rumors continue to crescendo that GM Jay Feaster is about to have the final three years of his contract bought out so he can depart the organization.
And the shoes keep dropping.
The Lightning have also announced the signings of Tom Kurvers to the position of Assistant GM, Jim Hammett as Director of Player Personnel, and Greg Malone as Head Professional Scout.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have officially announced the signing of Rick Tocchet and Wes Walz as assistant coaches. In addition, in one of the worst guarded secrets of the offseason, the Lightning have also lured Cap Raeder out of the San Jose organization and signed him as an assistant coach as well. Raeder served as an assistant to Head Coach Barry Melrose in Los Angeles during Melrose's first stint in the NHL.
Update: TSN is now confirming that Tampa Bay has signed Brandon Bochenski to a two-year deal. Like Konopka's deal, the first year of the deal is a two-way contract with a one-way deal for the final year..
This morning, NHLPA.com was indicating that enigmatic right winger Brandon Bochenski had signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning that would pay $500k at the NHL level.
â€œBrandon is a proven player at the AHL level with more than 100 games of experience in the NHL,â€ vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. â€œAdding him for the next two years continues to address our need to build organizational depth.â€
The former UND standout was a teammate with Lightning defensive prospect Matt Smaby in 2003-2004 during Smaby's freshman season with the Fighting Sioux. Bochenski, a prolific college and AHL scorer that has had trouble translating his dynamic offense at the NHL level, would be a huge boost to a Norfolk Admirals team that suffered through an anemic offense last season. Bochenski last played in the AHL for the Admirals during the 2006-2007 season, putting up an astronomical 33 goals and 33 assists in just 35 games. Bochenski has scored 89 goals and 93 assists in 143 career AHL games for Binghamton and Norfolk.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lighting have signed free agent defenseman and power play specialist Andrew Hutchinson to a two-year, one-way contract late Monday evening. The team also received word that winger Evegeny Artyukhin has signed a two-year, $1.9M deal and has sent it to the Lightning to be finalized.
Erlendsson also reported that long-time head scout Jake Goertzen was fired on Monday after 17 years with the organization. Best of luck from BoltProspects to you, Jake, as you begin the next era in your career. We'll miss you and we hope you won't be a stranger.
The site claims Recchi signed for one year at 1.25 million that could raise to 1.5 million with incentives.
After being claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh by Atlanta last year, the 40 year-old Recchi scored 40 points in 53 games.
For anyone who is wondering, here was Red Line Report's take on defenseman Ty Wishart heading into the 2006 draft. Wishart was ranked the 16th best prospect in the draft class by Red Line, and here is what they had to say:
The Buffalo News is suggesting that Jason Smith might be close to a deal with Tampa.
Regier said heâ€™s happy with the teamâ€™s depth but didnâ€™t discount further moves. Buffalo remains interested in free agent defenseman Jason Smith of Philadelphia, although Regier said he had not spoken to Smithâ€™s agent Friday and that the player may be close to a deal with another team (possibly Tampa Bay).