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.
Sunday night marked the end of the Norfolk Admirals' affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks as the Ads lost Game Six of their opening round playoff series to Wilkes-Barrie Scranton 3-2. The first round draw seems almost unfair given both teams finished the regular season with a hefty 108 points in the standings. The Blackhawks are set to open a new affiliation in Rockford, Illinois while the Lightning will make Norfolk their new minor league home.
Lightning prospect Vasily Koshechkin got the start for tournament-host Russia yesterday against Denmark in Russia's first game of the 2007 IIHF World Championship. Koshechkin stopped 24 of 25 shots for the win, a rather easy 9-1 decision. Among the scorers for Russia were NHL stars Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Alexander Frolov. Russia leads Group D at 1-0. Alexander Eremenko, who plays for Ak Bars Kazan in the RSL, served as Koshechkin's backup.
Prince George 1 @ Vancouver 5
Vancouver wins best-of-7 series 4-1
The junior career of Lightning first round draft pick Vladimir Mihalik is over. The Vancouver Giants soundly defeated Mihalik and the Prince George Cougars Friday night to win their best-of-7 WHL Western Conference Finals series 4-1. The Cougars only managed 10 shots for the game to the Giants' 46. Vancouver will now meet Medicine Hat in the finals. Mihalik finished the playoffs with one goal and two assists for three points in 15 games. He had 17 PIM and a minus-3 rating. Mihalik, who is already signed, will see his next action in the summer prospect camp and tournament for the Lightning. He also vaults to the leading group of signed defensemen prospects for Tampa Bay that will be fighting for a spot with the Lightning next season.
Mihalik was the last Lightning prospect remaining in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs.
On a WDAE radio call-in show yesterday, Lightning GM Jay Feaster tipped his hat regarding some of his thinking going into next season's roster planning and payroll. Perhaps Feaster is using different mathematical techniques than me, but I can't seem to get his roster plan to add up with the payroll budget he says he's working with. And no one seems to be calling him out on it. So, I guess I'll take a shot...