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Submitted by pete on August 6, 2006 - 00:27
It's a story we didn't really cover a week ago, but the Lightning [url=http://www.tbo.com/sports/lightning/MGBOP3QIBQE.html]have named Ryan Belec their new VP of Hockey Operations for the Johnstown Chiefs[/url], a sort of hockey liason similar to the role Claude Loiselle has been assigned with the Springfield Falcons. Not so coincidentally, the move was made around the time of the Lightning's prospect camp, an affair which cost the team $100,000 as they assembled not only many of their own top draft choices for conditioning and evaluation but 20 tryouts vying for potential contracts organization wide. It's not until you look at the numbers game playing out in the organization that you fully understand where this is headed. The Lightning are turning their entire minor league organization top to bottom into a developmental machine for young prospects. Last season the Johnstown Chiefs did what they've always done under the command of GM Toby O'Brien. They scrambled to recruit journeymen ECHL players to add to a group of regular Johnstown based players in the hopes they'd gel with a sprinkling of players that might trickle down from the AHL. Not so this season. Already, with the number of contracts already held by Lightning players/prospects as well as contracts held by the Springfield Falcons it appears at least a dozen prospects are already pencilled in for jobs in Johnstown. That makes no mention of potential signees out of the group of players the Lightning invited to their Traverse City team as well as to Springfield Falcons training camp. It would be no surprise if as many as 3 or 4 other prospects were signed by the Falcons or Chiefs and placed in Johnstown. That means this year's edition of the Johnstown Chiefs will be dominated by youth with only a smattering of veteran players around them. The skill level of the team should increase although there will be a corresponding loss in experience. The goal, however, is clear. The team appears to be serious in their move to identify and develop as many potential NHL talents as possible with a view towards finding players they can plug in to the big club at a moment's notice. And, given the nature of the salary cap in today's NHL, it seems a wise move. Young talent plays at a cheaper price and having young talent is the only sustainable way to keep a high priced core with players like Lecavalier and Richards taking such a large percentage of the budget over the long term. The biggest hurdle the Lightning will have to jump to make this new model of development successful is to get their players to disregard the stigma that has long been held about the ECHL being an inferior league. Already the team's goaltenders have seen the benefits of playing at the ECHL level but will these benefits become apparent in their ECHL level skaters as well? The Lightning are apparently banking on it with high profile prospects like [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url] looking more and more like they will be in a Chiefs uniform to start the year. If they can convince these prospects of the benefit of playing on a scoring line at the equivalent of the AA level rather than sparing checking line ice time at the equivalent of AAA the Lightning may very well succeed in crafting what could be a model developmental system for the rest of the NHL to emulate.
According to Erlendsson's column for tomorrow's Tampa Tribune, Evgeny Artyukhin's handler through this mess of a situation is none other than notorious agent [url=http://www.nhlpa.com/Agents/Agent.asp?AgentId=9292]Mark Gandler.[/url] Meet the NHL's equivalent of football agent [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Rosenhaus]Drew Rosenhaus.[/url] Google Gandler's name and you'll find a festering rash of stories highlighting the kind of greedy and unprincipled behavior which turns fans off to pro sports and makes their collective skin crawl. Most notable in his career was Gandler's part in the one year holdout of former Senators center Alexei Yashin, complete with accusations of racism hurled at the Ottawa front office, and Yashin's subsequent cashing in to the tune of a 10 year multi-million dollar deal at the hands of foolish Islanders GM Mike Milbury. More recently, Gandler was involved in the messy court entanglements surrounding young Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin. Sadly, in much the same way that Rosenhaus seems to have cornered the market on talent coming into the NFL from South Florida, Gandler, a Russian expatriate now working out of New Jersey, controls a large percentage of players coming out of the former Soviet Union. Artyukhin is just one of the newest of a list of players that includes other NHLers like Yashin, Semin, Ruslan Salei and Vitaly Vishnevski of the Ducks who, you guessed it, is now demanding a trade after the Ducks apparently [url=http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/sports/pros/article_1228728.php]hurt his feelings in arbitration.[/url] Evgeny Artyukhin, do yourself a favor, seek other representation. In trying to squeeze an extra $150,000 out of the Tampa Bay Lightning Gandler has potentially burned your bridge to an organization which has bent over backwards to develop you. I know how GM Jay Feaster feels about you personally. I know the pride he feels in you when he crows about how he filed one of the first scouting reports on you from the U-18s in your draft year. When he says he feels like you and Gandler have spit in his face, don't take it lightly, he means it. And, believe this, you're too young and not nearly established enough after a 4 goal rookie season to have an agent making personal enemies on your behalf. Think about that the next time Gandler tries to whisper in your ear.
Submitted by pete on August 5, 2006 - 12:14
Contract posturing between Evgeny Artyukhin's camp and the Tampa Bay Lightning has taken another ugly step as Evgeny Artyukhin has signed a contract with Russian Superleague club Yaroslavl Lokomotive. [url=http://www.sport-express.ru/art.shtml?125468]According to the Russian newspaper Sport Express[/url] Artyukhin joined Islanders prospect Sean Bergenheim and NHL veteran Eric Chouinard in inking deals with the team. The contract is likely not binding should Artyukhin reach agreement with the Lightning but does potentially strengthen the young wingers bargaining position as he attempts to get more than the two-way qualifying offer for over $600,000 he received from the Lightning. [b]Update[/b] Erik Erlendsson writes [url=http://www.tboblogs.com/index.php/sports/related/C189/]on the Tampa Tribune blog[/url] that Artyukhin won't be returning, period. My understanding though is that such deals are signed with regularity with Russian clubs as fallback positions to strengthen bargaining postures and aren't binding, so I wouldn't completely shut the door on Artyukhin returning this season. For instance, according to Russianprospects.com prospects Denis Grebeshkov (Islanders) and Pavel Vorobiev (Blackhawks) have signed similar insurance deals in the last month looking to better their lot at the negotiating table. If Artyukhin doesn't return, this gives an opportunity to both Nikita Alexeev and [url=nick-tarnasky]Nick Tarnasky[/url] to make this team out of camp, with an outside chance to [url=darren-reid]Darren Reid[/url] if he shows his skating has improved over the summer.
Submitted by chad on August 2, 2006 - 15:17
The Springfield Falcons released their [b]2006-2007 Regular Season Schedule[/b] today. The Falcons open with three games on the road starting October 7 against Hartford and October 13 and 14 against Norfolk. Springfield's home opener is October 20 vs. Manchester.
Submitted by zepdog on August 2, 2006 - 13:59
[url=http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=sportsNews&storyID=2006-08-02T190030Z_01_L02867166_RTRUKOC_0_US-ICE-HOCKEY-RUSSIA.xml&archived=False]Russia refuses to sign the NHL transfer deal after all.[/url] MOSCOW, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Russia will not sign a transfer agreement with the National Hockey League (NHL) just weeks after ratifying the deal, the country's ice hockey chief said on Wednesday. Vladislav Tretyak, president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RIHF), said the proposed agreement was not in the best interest of Russian clubs. "We have been in constant negotiation with the NHL, trying to reach a fair deal, but unfortunately we were unable to fully take into account the interests of Russian clubs," said Tretyak.