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New GM for Norfolk

The Helena Independent Record is reporting Mike Butters, part-owner of the Helena Bighorns Junior A Tier III hockey team, will be introduced as the AHL Norfolk Admirals' new general manager.

The Bighorns are also owned by Oren Koules, who runs OK Hockey - owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The newspaper describes Butters as "energetic and often boisterous," which would seem to fall in line with the rest of the new Lightning organizational ownership, which includes real estate magnate and former NHLer Len Barrie.

Butters, a 42 year-old Manitoba native, is also a former hockey player, last playing in the AHL in 1992.

Fan Favorite Signs with Flames is reporting Lightning enforcer and fan favorite Andre Roy has signed a one year deal with Calgary. Roy had four goals and three assists for seven points, along with 108 penalty minutes, this past year for Tampa Bay.

While known for his locker-room antics and passion for his team, Roy's emotions got the better of him at times, resulting in on-the-bench arguments with then-coach John Tortorella. Roy was suspended by the club for a handful of games to end the year.

With Tortorella now out of the picture, it was thought Roy may have a place with the "new" Lightning, but despite new coach Barry Melrose's wishes for a physical team - and a sect of Lightning fans demanding Roy's return - the coach and new owners indicated at a recent town hall meeting with fans that the club would make use of its size at forward and team toughness rather than use a designated enforcer.

The Lightning did sign 6'6" enforcer David Koci to a one year contract earlier this off-season, but that signing was done with Norfolk in mind.

Norfolk Ready to Rumble

Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times reports in his blog that former Lightning Darren Rumble will be named AHL Norfolk's next head coach on Tuesday.

Rumble was an assistant under Steve Stirling last year for Norfolk, but did not have his contract renewed at the end of the season. Stirling was reassigned to an NCAA scouting position by the Lightning following the season but later left the organization to coach in Germany.

Rumble played 24 games for the Bolts from 2002-2004, registering 8 penalty minutes in limited duty as a defenseman. He was a member of Tampa Bay's 2004 Cup team.

For more from Rumble on the opportunity, see Cristodero's Blog.

(Pictured: Rumble in Barrie, Ontario on his day with the Cup. A fun note: Rumble's daughter, Alexa, ate Fruit Loops out of the trophy.

2008-2009 Lightning Schedule Released

The National Hockey League released the 2008-2009 season schedules for all 30 teams today, and Tampa's schedule can be found here. The Lightning begin the season playing back-to-back games against the New York Rangers on October 4-5 in Prague, CZE. Following the season opener in Prague, the Lightning return to the St. Pete Times Forum to host a 5 game home stand culminating in the return of Dan Boyle and the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, Oct 25th.

Two West Coast trips with stops in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim highlight the main Lightning extended road trips. Multiple extended home stands of 5 games in October, 4 in November, 5 in January, 6 in February, and 4 in March help offset the European and West Coast trips.

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings come to town on November 13, and Brad Richards makes his return to the Forum with his Dallas Stars on January 19. The defending Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins make two visits to Tampa in March, while the Lightning finish the season with 6 of its last 9 games on the road.

Lightning Hires Mike Vernon

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the hiring of former Conn-Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winning goaltender Mike Vernon as a special assistant to Brian Lawton, the VP of Hockey Operations. Vernon’s duties will be to assist in hockey-related matters and to provide guidance to the team’s goaltenders. As an assistant to Lawton, Vernon figures to be part of the "group" that Lawton indicated would be assuming much of the duties of former General Manager Jay Feaster.

“The Tampa Bay Lightning are thrilled to add a former Stanley Cup Champion to our staff,” vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. “Mike’s past experience and knowledge will be a true benefit to the organization and it will be critical to us as we continue to make changes within the team to improve it.”

Vernon joins Robert "Cap" Raeder from the Sharks organization to the revamped Lightning staff as co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie continue to address the Bolts' highly publicized goaltending woes over the last several seasons. The St.Pete Times quoted Lightning head coach Barry Melrose as he provides some additional clues as to Vernon's role with the on-ice team. "Cap Raeder is a guy I depend on a lot for goaltenders. He’s the guy, I know what he can do and I think he’ll be great working with Kolzig, Smith, and Ramo. That’s the guy I know and trust as far as goaltenders are concerned. Mike’s role will be looked at as we go."

Lightning Preseason Schedule Announced

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they will play five preseason games in 2008, including two at the St. Pete Times Forum. Highlights of the schedule include two games each against the 2007-08 Eastern Conference Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers, as well as a match-up against Eisbaren Berlin in Berlin, Germany before the Lightning open the season in Prague, Czech Republic. Prices and the on-sale date for preseason games will be announced at a later time.

The Lightning will open the preseason at Mellon Arena against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Saturday, September 20 (7:30 p.m.), then the teams will travel to the St. Pete Times Forum for a re-match Monday, September 22 (7:30 p.m.). Tampa Bay will then host the first of a home-and-home set with the Rangers on Tuesday, September 23 (7:30 p.m.), before heading to Madison Square Garden on Thursday, September 25 (7 p.m.) in their final pre-season game in North America.

From New York, the Lightning will travel to Europe where they will play their final pre-season game against Eisbaren Berlin on Sunday, September 28 (time TBA).

(Pictured: Prospect Justin Keller vs. the Red Wings last exhibition season.)

Courtnall Returning to Victoria

Victoria Grizzlies General Manager Jackson Penney has informed Bolt Prospects that Lightning 2007 seventh round pick Justin Courtnall will return to the BCHL Grizzlies for another year.

Courtnall had been looking into attending an NCAA school in the fall, but those plans are on hold until the 2009-2010 season.

After starting slow last year with Victoria, Courtnall came on to finish with 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 60 games - good enough for second on the club by just a point.

The winger played the previous season with Burnaby of the BCHL.

Courtnall's father, former NHLer Geoff Courtnall, is the head coach of Victoria. Lightning co-owner Len Barrie serves as the Grizzlies' president. (Times-Colonist photo)

Bolts Extend Mike Smith

TSN is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Mike Smith to a 2 year contract extension. Smith has one year left on his current contract, acquired from the Dallas Stars as part of the trade deadline blockbuster deal for Brad Richards.

Tampa Tribune Lightning beat writer Eric Erlendsson is reporting that Smith will make $2M for the 2009-2010 season increasing to $2.4M for the 2010-2011 season.

"It goes without saying that Mike has a bright future in the Lightning organization," Vice President of Hockey Operations Brian Lawton said. "It is important in our plan to have locked up Mike, along with Ollie (Kolzig), to solidify our goaltending situation this season and beyond."

While Lawton's statement confirmed Smith as a central cog in the future of the Lightning, his comments could be interpreted to imply that the Lightning might be interested in locking up Olaf Kolzig beyond the 2007-2008 season. If so, this would certainly cast some doubt on the future of goaltending prospect Karri Ramo within the organization.

Wanvig to Russia

According to, former Bolt Kyle Wanvig has signed with Amur Tigers Khabarovsk of the new KHL in Russia.

Wanvig played 11 games for the Lightning over the past two seasons, registering one goal and a minus-1 rating. He was AHL Norfolk's leading scorer last year with 23 goals and 56 points in 62 games. Wanvig has played 75 NHL games in his career, totaling 6 goals and 9 assists in limited duty.

The unrestricted free agent was acquired by the Lightning on February 1, 2007, from Atlanta with Stephen Baby for Andy Delmore and Andre Deveaux.

Lecavalier's Lifetime Deal

TSN is reporting the Lightning have agreed to terms on the re-signing of Vincent Lecavalier to an 11 year, $85 million dollar contract. New owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie have publicly stated their desire to make the franchise center a member of the organization for life, including a role with the team after his retirement.

In 710 career NHL games Lecavalier has 273 goals and 602 points, including 8 straight 20 goal seasons, 5 straight 30 goal seasons, and 2 straight 40 goal seasons. Consistency will get you about $7.73 million dollars a year, or so it seems.

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