Sad news out of Johnstown, PA today as Jim Weber, operator of the Johnstown Chiefs franchise, announced today he is pulling out of his role as part-owner. Johnstown, which dissolved its relationship with the Lightning at the end of last season, has been in dangerous financial straits for the past few seasons as dwindling attendance coupled with an unfavorable concessions agreement with the small and aging Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Weber, who owns a 40% minority stake in the team, cited recent losses in his own personal financial fortune as the reason for his abrupt decision to pull out as operator.
A 50% stake in the team is held by former Rangers GM Neil Smith, who announced he intends to do everything in his power to keep the Chiefs in Johnstown. Still, it is looking more and more like Johnstown's 20th anniversary season may be its last.
The Lightning, who have already sold the small stake in the Chiefs they owned the past couple of years, have moved their affiliation to Mississippi of the ECHL which suspended operations for the past two seasons in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's effect on the Biloxi area.
According to Randy from AdmiralsZone.com in the comments, the AHL and PHPA have ratified the sixth veteran rule. Randy also clarifies the rule noting the 6th veteran will have less than 320 games of experience, not greater than. Karl Stewart and Bryce Lampman would both fit in under this sixth veteran rule.
Thanks to everyone for being patient with me while I get schooled up on these rules.
With the flurry of free agent signings and trades aimed toward stocking up the Norfolk Admirals roster over the last week, I think we've all had some questions about how the Lightning/Admirals will navigate around the AHL's veteran rule. I, admittedly, still didn't know the ins and outs of the rule as early as about a week ago. Thankfully, several of the Admirals fans have pointed out some of the intricacies of the rules and how the Admirals are indeed going to be able ice all this new talent they've accumlated recently.
First, here is how the rule was in effect last season. According to TheAHL.com, teams were allowed to use up to five players with 260 or more games of experience at the IHL/AHL/NHL or European elite league level at the start of the season. Goaltenders are exempt from the veteran rule. ECHL games do not count against the veteran rule.
For this season, according to rumors, the AHL/PHPA are expected to expand the AHL's veteran rule to include a sixth veteran with less than 320 games of experience at the IHL/AHL/NHL or European elite league level.
So where do the Lightning's recent signings fall in terms of games played? The following players will count against the Lightning's six veteran slots:
According to the Halifax Daily News, the Lightning has extended a free agent tryout to Cape Breton Screaming Eagle Dean Ouellet. The 5-11, 172 pound Ouellet had 40 goals and 85 points in 70 games for Cape Breton last season as a 19 year old. He will turn 20 in early August, a month before he participates with Lightning prospects at the Traverse City, Michigan prospects tournament. Ouellet, a left winger, also had over 100 PIM last season before he scored 9 goals and 19 points in 16 playoff games.
"It's going to be a great experience," Ouellet told the newspaper. "I'm going to go there [Traverse City] and give it my best shot and see what happens."
The Bolts added former Rimouski Oceanic and Pittsburgh Penguin Michel Ouellet this week as an unrestricted free agent. They are not related.
Lampman, 24, was a 2001 4th round selection by the Rangers and has played the past five seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack accumulating 19-57-76, +49, and 234 PIMs in 258 games played. During those 5 seasons, he appeared in 10 NHL games for the Rangers. â€œIn Bryce Lampman we are obtaining a mobile, very good skating, puck-moving defenseman with good vision who sees the ice well, makes a very good first pass and who possesses excellent hockey sense,â€ Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster said in a team press release. â€œHe is also a player who can be used in all special teams situations. For the past three or four seasons now our pro scouts have felt that he was on the verge of playing regularly in the NHL. He will come to training camp in September and have a chance to battle it out with probably five or six other players for the sixth and seventh spots on our blueline. Based on everything we have seen from him in the past, he is knocking on the door of being an NHL regular. We are thrilled to have him in our organization and we wish Mitch Fritz nothing but success.â€
Lampman, an assistant captain with the Wolf Pack, signed a contract with TPS in Finland on June 6 and the restricted free agent, who was qualified by the Rangers, has an out clause with TPS should he sign with an NHL club by July 10.
Fritz, 26, was signed by the Lightning as a free agent in 2005 and the 6'8", 258lb winger is one of the most feared and respected enforcers in the AHL, accumulating over 356 PIMs in two seasons with the organization. According to the St. Pete Times, Fritz had contacted Feaster when the Lightning qualified the restricted free agent to express his concern over lack of playing time at the AHL level and the inability to get a better chance to make the NHL club.
TSN and various news outlets are reporting the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed unrestricted free agent Brad Lukowich to a three-year contract.
Lukowich, 30, played for the Lightning during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, helping the team to back-to-back Southeast Division titles and the 2004 Stanley Cup.
"Brad Lukowich is a warrior," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster in a Lightning press release. "He plays the game with his heart on his sleeve and he does whatever it takes to win. He knows our system, he knows our core personnel, he knows how we do things in Tampa and what we expect from our players, and he is a winner. He is also a very good teammate and a popular player in the locker room. He has personality and spirit and old-school flair about him. We like everything about him and we are thrilled to welcome him back to our hockey team."