NHL.com has a couple of articles out today regarding the Lightning's prospects. First up, John McGourty interviews General Manager Jay Feaster on the top prospects in the Lightning organization. Feaster gives his opinions on defensemen Matt Smaby, Andy Rogers, and Vladimir Mihalik, forward Blair Jones, and goaltenders Karri Ramo and Riku Helenius.
Next up Shawn P. Roarke interviews Helenius from the Team USA Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. Helenius talks about leaving Finland behind to join the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.
As some of you might know, the Falcons just completed E-baying practically their full rosters worth of black road jerseys and practice jerseys tonight. How Mitch Fritz and Daniel Corso's jerseys fetched more than Karri Ramo's, I'll never know.
In any event, yours truly just plunked down a couple hundie on young Matt Smaby's #27. No pressure Matt, but you better make the team now.
This is a tough pill to swallow. For the first time in franchise history the team has lost a series where I really believed they were the better team.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 3 goals on 26 shots in the loss. He did allow a bit of a softie on the short side for Jersey's first goal, but he was good. After his horrible Game One performance, I think Johan did a lot to regain the confidence of the franchise going into an offseason where decisions need to be made concerning the netminder's job. Brad Richards had both Lightning goals on the power play. Filip Kuba had a pair of assists in the game to atone for accidentally knocking over Holmqvist after a Tim Taylor turnover that resulted in the game winning goal. Vaclav Prospal and Vincent Lecavalier also had assists.
Going into the offseason, I feel a lot better about the team's blueline than I did 3-4 months ago. Dan Boyle is one of the best defensemen in the league and Filip Kuba earned every penny of his free agent deal from this summer. I was impressed with how Shane O'Brien quickly factored into the mix and Paul Ranger will be approaching 250-300 pro games by the end of next season so he should start to really hit his comfort zone as a player. It will be difficult if not impossible to retain Cory Sarich and the team might do well to find a younger, more mobile replacement for Nolan Pratt. Now is the time for one of the Lightning's young defensive prospects like Matt Smaby or Vladimir Mihalik or Mike Egener to step up as a player.
In net, Holmqvist probably did enough in the playoffs to earn the starting job going into next season. Marc Denis' nearly $3M per year contract is unsustainable from a budget standpoint and he may be traded or even bought out before next season. That leaves young Karri Ramo in the Lightning's backup role and, mark my words, he could be a Calder contender next season.
I think the most amount of work for this team needs to be done up front this summer. Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis showed why they're paid premium dollars in this playoff series. The core is sound. The supporting cast, however, is horrible. There was no greater endictment of the Lightning's lack of offensive depth than the fact Andreas Karlsson spent all of today's game playing on the Lightning's second line and second power play unit. What do you do if you're the Lightning? That's got to be the biggest question of this offseason. They have some decent fourth line type pieces (Andre Roy, Nick Tarnasky, Evgeny Artyukhin) and some decent third line type pieces (Ryan Craig, Eric Perrin, Jason Ward should they retain him). The question is whether they can find a couple of more forwards with the skill to play on the scoring lines and possibly a natural third line center.
It's going to be an interesting offseason. If I was a young forward who hasn't fully established himself as a scorer in the league, I'd take a long hard look at Tampa. I have a feeling Lecavalier and Richards could make some young man a lot of money if they latch on here.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The Springfield Falcons have announced that defenseman Matt Smaby has been recalled to Tampa Bay of the NHL. In addition, forward Kyle Wanvig has been returned to the Falcons and goaltender Ryan Munce has been recalled from Johnstown of the ECHL.
Jonathan Boutin is in net tonight being backed up by Bryon Lewis, an emergency goaltender who was signed yesterday by the Springfield Falcons. This points to either an injury to Karri Ramo or a recall to Tampa Bay. Munce is still with Johnstown, apparently, playing backup tonight against Reading.
In todayâ€™s Springfield Republican they briefly mention the Edmonton rumors:
Falcons president and general manager Bruce Landon met with the Booster Club prior to the game. "We have two years left on our deal with Tampa Bay," Landon said, debunking a rumor that Edmonton was planning to become Springfield's parent team next season. "I told our fans that I feel their pain." Landon also assured the fans the Falcons have not been sold and will operate next season.
As Nigel mentioned in the Greco/AHL discussion, Bill Barber and Claude Loiselle canceled their appearance with Springfield fans to watch Mike Lundin play UMass. If Maine's season is indeed finished, and considering Springfield's injuries to their defensemen (Rosehill, Rullier and now Matt Smaby), Lundin could be signed pretty quick - pending education issues, I'm sure.