TSN is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired exclusive negotiating rights to forwards Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts by sending a 2009 4th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both Malone and Roberts are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on July 1. If the Lightning sign Malone, the 4th round pick would be upgraded to a 3rd round pick.
Prior to the NHL draft, Malone had said that it would be foolish for a team to trade for his rights as he intended to explore his market value when the free agency period opens on July 1. Roberts had quelled retirement rumors by stating that he intend to continue to play, but that he would not be returning to the Penguins organization.
After a couple of months of rumors indicating he might go back to Europe, Eurohockey.net is reporting that Lightning prospect Marek Kvapil has signed with Vitkovice of the Czech Extraliga for next season. Kvapil, 23, struggled the past two seasons to reach the promise he showed as a rookie in 2005-2006 when he scored 18 goals and 45 points in 79 games with the Springfield Falcons. Plagued by inconsistent effort and turnovers in the neutral zone, Kvapil languished in the ECHL for half of last season with the Mississippi Sea Wolves. Kvapil's decision is the first of a string of prospect roster moves to come in the next couple of months. Bolt Prospects' Chad Schnarr will have more on Johan Harju, Mitch Fadden, and Dane Crowley in the coming week.
Eurohockey.net is reporting that defenseman Mario Scalzo has signed with Austrian club Salzburg for next season. If Scalzo indeed chooses to leave North America for Europe, it makes an already depleted Norfolk blueline for next season even thinner. Of course, it also probably helps prospect Dane Crowley's quest to get an NHL contract.
The website is also reporting that Lightning prospect Stanislav Lascek, who has spent much of this season with Mississippi of the ECHL, has agreed to play next season for Zvolen in Slovakia. Lascek, who was drafted as an overage player in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, finished second in the QMJHL in scoring in his final year of junior hockey but has been underwhelming in two seasons of professional hockey that have been spent largely in the ECHL.
Milley's departure leaves an opening for a veteran forward to be retained or signed for Norfolk of the AHL next season. Milley leaves the Lightning organization after three seasons which have included 182 games split between Springfield and Norfolk of the AHL and 14 games of NHL service with Tampa Bay during the 2005-2006 season. Milley has scored 63 goals and 154 points in his 182 games of AHL service with the franchise. He will be missed.
It is not completely clear what Lascek's status will be given that he still has a year left on his NHL Entry Level deal. Whether or not the Lightning retain Lascek's rights, it does appear his departure may give the Lightning some relief on the 50-man roster front where potentially difficult signing decisions need to be made for currently contracted prospects Mike Egener and Marek Kvapil and minor league contracted players Adam Henrich and Rob Klinkhammer.