Norfolk, Va. The Norfolk Admirals have signed forward Justin Keller to an American Hockey League Standard Playerâ€™s Contract, Admirals General Manager Brian Lawton announced today.
Keller, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward from Nelson, British Columbia, has appeared in 23 games for the Admirals this season recording five goals and seven points. He ranks fifth on the team in goals and his 61 shots on goal are third on the team.
Keller had originally signed a Professional Tryout Contract with the Admirals on October 3. This is Kellerâ€™s third season in Norfolk. The 23-year-old fourth-year pro has appeared in 151 career games with the Admirals scoring 38 goals and 43 assists. He ranks in the top 20 of all-time games played (19th), goals (15th), assists (T-18th) and points (17th) in AHL Admirals history.
Last season, Keller ranked fifth in goals (18) and sixth in points (37) with the Admirals. In 2007-08, Keller tied for third in goals (15) and was fourth in points (37) with Norfolk. He represented the Admirals at the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic in Binghamton, New York.
Keller was an eighth-round draft pick (245th overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. He made his pro debut in 2006-07 with the AHLâ€™s Springfield Falcons, scoring 13 goals and adding 11 assists in 60 games. In 211 career American Hockey League games, Keller has scored 51 goals and added 54 assists.
Norfolk Admirals GM Mike Butters was busy with the pen again today continuing to add roster depth by signing former Lightning overage defensive prospect Justin Fletcher to a standard AHL contract. Butters had signed center Pete Zingoni and goaltender Mike McKenna to standard AHL contracts on Monday. Fletcher, originally undrafted out of St. Cloud State in Minnesota, signed an ATO with the Springfield Falcons and eventually earned a one year NHL contract from then Lightning GM Jay Feaster in May 2007.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning has tendered qualifying offers to restricted free agents Ryan Craig, Justin Fletcher, and Jay Rosehill, thus retaining the club's rights on these players.
Qualifying offers were not tendered to former second round pick Mike Egener, goaltender and former third rounder Jonathan Boutin, Zbynek Hrdel, Marek Kvapil, Ryan Munce, and recently acquired defenseman Mario Scalzo Jr., making them unrestricted free agents. Kvapil and Scalzo, along with Stanislav Lascek, had already signed contracts to play with European teams next season.
University of Vermont graduate Arthur Femenella will not be able to attend next month's prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan after all.
According to the Lightning, Femenella, a 6-7, 240-pound defenseman/forward, had surgery last week to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and will be out until November.
Taking Femenella's place in Michigan will be recently signed defenseman Justin Fletcher. A 2007 graduate of St. Cloud State, Fletcher was signed by the Lightning this spring. Fletcher played well enough on an ATO with AHL Springfield late last season to earn a one-year contract with Tampa Bay. His inclusion on the Traverse City roster will help bring more offense from the blueline.
Also in today's St. Pete Times, Damian Crisdotero breaks down the Lightning system by NHL readiness. One surprise on the list: defenseman Justin Fletcher from St. Cloud State who played well during an ATO stint with the Springfield Falcons at the end of last season. According to Crisdotero, Fletcher has signed a one year deal with the Lightning organization.
There have also been rumors that the Lightning are interested in bringing Falcons tryout forward Jacob Micflikier into the fold in Norfolk as well, although nothing substantial has surfaced as of yet.