Damian Crisdotero of the St. Pete Times is reporting on his blog that Boston University defenseman Matt Gilroy has been named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, given to the NCAA's best player. Gilroy, who turns 25 this July, is a 6'2" 202 lbs. senior defenseman who will become an unrestricted free agent after BU's title game matchup with Miami of Ohio tomorrow. Gilroy has been courted by several teams, including the Lightning who have been heavily interested in Gilroy since last season. The team had Gilroy in Tampa last summer, and they have sent assistant coach and BU alumni Mike Sullivan to Boston to recruit Gilroy earlier this year.
Gilroy had 8 goals and 36 points in 44 games this season and has been lauded for his skating and passing ability. Of added interest to the team's pursuing Gilroy is that he is also the semi-rare and coveted right-handed shot. Because of his age, there is no limit to what Gilroy could earn as a free agent, and he is considered to be NHL ready right out of school. The question is: will Gilroy turn down bigger money from larger northern markets in order to have the opportunity to play in the NHL sooner with the Lightning?
According to Swedish newspaper Sportbladet, Lightning forward prospect Johan Harju has signed a one year contract with the Moscow Dynamo along with Lulea linemate and Edmonton Oiler prospect Linus Omark.
Since Lulea's exit from the SEL playoffs, rumors were rampant that the KHL were courting both Harju and Omark with promises of salaries in excess of the what the duo could get from the rookie maximum for an NHL entry level contract. The news is certainly a blow to a Lightning organization in the midst of rebuilding and a system largely devoid of elite offensive talent.
One really has to ask the question if anyone from the organization was camping in Harju's backyard since Lulea's exit from the SEL playoffs. Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
The Swedish paper Norrbottens Kuriren is reporting that several teams in the Russian KHL are courting Lightning prospect Johan Harju and his teammate, Edmonton prospect Linus Omark. The Lightning reportedly had the inside track on signing Harju, who at 22 years of age was the second leading goal scorer in the Swedish Elitserien for Lulea, earlier in the season. However, the entrance of the Russian league into the equation complicates matters. NHL rookie contracts are capped at around $900,000, while wealthy Russian owners flush with cash are willing to spend lavishly on young stars like Harju, putting the Lightning at a disadvantage in a potential bidding war. The question is: will Harju choose the better lifestyle and top flight competition of the NHL, or will he choose to chase the big bucks behind the former iron curtain?
Harju is quoted in the report as saying, "The NHL is the dream and that is what I am aiming for." However, he didn't close the door completely, stating, "The way of life is a bit special in Russia, but it would also be an adventure in its own way."
More on this story as it develops...
The Swedish newspaper the Norlandska Socialdemokraten is reporting (link in Swedish) that the Lightning have signaled their intention to sign Swedish sniper Johan Harju at the end of this season. Lulea GM Lars Bergstrom is quoted in the paper as being resigned to the fact that Harju and his teammate, Edmonton prospect Linus Omark, will be headed to North America next season. Harju, who was drafted by the Lightning in the 6th round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has played much of this season at second line center for Lulea, but can also play left wing. The 22 year old, 6'3" 205 lbs forward is currently tied for 12th in the Elitserien in scoring with 20 goals and 34 points in 44 games. Those 20 goals are tied for 4th best in the league and his 9 power play goals are tied for 3rd best.
Hat tip to Sotnos from the message boards.
Responding to the sudden loss of over half of their defensive corps due to injuries or callups, the Norfolk Admirals have announced the signing of defenseman Mitch Ganzak to a PTO contract. The 6'0" 205 lbs blueliner has spent the balance of this season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers, where he has scored 4 goals and 22 points in 29 games. Prior to this season, Ganzak was the recipient of a 2 game tryout with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, in which he tallied 1 assist, after 4 years spent with Miami of the CCHA.