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Goaltending Makeover Continues: Bolts Sign Holmqvist

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the signing of Johan Holmqvist to a one-year deal. Holmqvist is the third goalie signed by Tampa Bay this week, joining fellow Swedish Elite League veteran Fredrik Norrena and SM-Liiga (Finland) youngster Karri Ramo. “At the end of the season we sent both Jeff Reese and Corey Schwab, our two goalie coaches, to the World Championships along with our Chief Scout Jake Goertzen,” Feaster said. “They not only watched Johan play and lead his team to the Gold Medal, but they also attended some of his team’s practices and then met with Johan personally. They unanimously recommended we sign him. Clearly, we feel as an organization we have done our homework on Johan. “He is a player who has won championships at multiple levels of competition, and we are confident he is ready to challenge for a spot in Tampa. We are thrilled to welcome him to our organization.” The Lightning now have seven goaltenders under contract: Holmqvist, Norrena, Sean Burke, Ramo, Jonathan Boutin, Gerald Coleman, and Morgan Cey.

Trib Confirms Ramo/Smolenak Signings

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune [url=http://www.tbo.com/sports/MGBX95X6WNE.html]also is reporting the signing[/url] with quotes from Jay Feaster, so it is indeed official. The Lightning GM, commenting on [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak's[/url] work ethic, defensive zone play and consistency, considered his rough edges, says, "The tools - including size, skill, skating ability and reach, are all there if he is willing to pay the price. We look forward to getting him started on his professional career." On [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url], Feaster notes, "Getting Karri Ramo signed and started on his professional career in North America is a very significant event for our organization," as Ramo is considered the top goaltending prospect in the organization.

WDAE: Lightning Sign Ramo and Smolenak

What a difference 24 hours makes. 620 WDAE is reporting the Lightning [url=http://620wdae.com/cc-common/mainheadlines2.html?feed=122843&article=388031]have signed prospects Karri Ramo and Radek Smolenak.[/url] Just a day ago talks between the Lightning and Ramo appeared to be stalled with both sides far apart on the financial particulars of a new deal. However, with the IIHF deadline looming, it appears progress was made quickly today in some heavy eleventh hour negotiations. [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] is rated by Bolt Prospects as the best goaltending prospect in the Lightning organization. This season, at age 19, he was a tandem starter for SM-liiga club HPK and helped his team capture championship gold in Finland's top league. He was fifth in the SM-liiga amongst goaltenders with 20 or more appearances in save percentage at .929 and his 2.18 GAA was 8th in the league. Ramo also served as backup on Finland's U20 World Junior Championships team. [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url] will join fellow sniper prospect [url=justin-keller]Justin Keller[/url] in Springfield next season. He scored 42 goals and 84 points in 65 games this season with Kingston in the OHL to go along with 109 penalty minutes. One of the best pure finishers in the Lightning pipeline, he was amongst the final cuts for the Czech Republic's U20 World Junior Championships team.

"Goaltending Makeover is NOT Finished!"

The Lightning organization has made clear to Bolt Prospects that [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena's[/url] signing is just the first step in a series of offseason moves the team intends to make between the pipes. The Lightning are unsure what the 32 year old Norrena will be able to bring to the table for the team right out of the gates but they expect him to be a legitimate contender for the team's number one job in camp. The team also has indicated it is still looking for a veteran goaltender to play in Springfield next season and intends to place just one prospect netminder with the Falcons and two with the Johnstown Chiefs. On the contract front, negotiations with goaltending prospect [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] and center [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url] continue to move at a painfully slow pace. The Lightning hold Ramo's rights until the summer of 2008, but with Ramo establishing himself at the SM-liiga level and able to earn elite league money in Finland, the situation appears to be at a stalement. The situation looks similarly deadlocked with Jones, who appears to be headed back to Moose Jaw for another year of junior unless progress can be made in negotiations over the summer. The Lightning will hold Jones' rights until the summer of 2007.

Lightning Announce Norrena Signing

The Tampa Bay Lightning have officially announced the signing of goaltender Fredrik Norrena. Norrena will make the trek across the Atlantic and participate in the Lightning's NHL camp this fall. Had the Lightning not signed Norrena by Thursday, he would have become an unrestricted free agent. Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported yesterday that Norrena signed a one-year deal at $525,000 with a $225,000 signing bonus. Norrena and Sean Burke are currently the leaders for the Lightning's No.1 goaltending job, but that is highly likely to change in the coming summer months. The goaltending makeover in Tampa Bay is officially underway, however.

Aftonbladet: Norrena Deal Done

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is reporting Finland Olympic goaltender Fredrik Norrena has agreed to a one year deal with the Lightning. No confirmation or announcement has been made by Tampa Bay. More information to follow.

Keller signs with Bolts...

TBO.com is reporting on their website that the Lightning has signed Junior sniper Justin Keller to a standard three year rookie contract. I'm glad to see this, that the Bolts are moving quickly to get their people under contract. In my opinion signing Keller, Lascek, and resigning Richards were top priorities and I'm glad to see Jay Feaster thought along those same lines. I think the two young junior stars along with the hopefully soon signing of Blair Jones will go along way to securing the future firepower of this organization. Along with the talent the Lightning already have on their roster, these young players, and the crop of talented young defensemen the organization has in it's stable, this should be a good team for years to come.

Talks Re-Opened with Norrena and Other News

Bolt Prospects has learned the Tampa Bay Lightning has indeed re-opened talks with Finnish Olympic goaltender Fredrik Norrena. In fact, the two sides have been in talks since before the 2006 World Championships. Norrena and the Lightning agreed to a contract last summer, but Norrena backed out of the agreement causing Tampa to temporarily shut the door on the chances of signing the Linkoping goaltender in 2006. That door, according to GM Jay Feaster, has not been shut completely, and in fact has now been re-opened. Norrena, a 6'0", 190 pound 7th round pick of the Lightning in 2002, is coming off a 5-0, 37-save shutout vs. Sidney Crosby and Canada at the World Championships in the Bronze Medal game. Bolt Prospects has also been told the Lightning cannot confirm or comment on reports from at least two Swedish newspapers stating the Bolts are in negotitations with World Championship Gold Medal winning goaltender Johan Holmqvist. In addition, negotiations continue with three young prospects:

Holmqvist Rumors Persist

Rumors persist overseas of the Lightning's interest in Swedish World Championship gold medal winningn netminder Johan Holmqvist. Echoing and earlier report in Aftonbladet, Swedish newspaper Expressen [url=http://expressen.se/index.jsp?a=591449]report the Lightning is the frontrunner among three teams interested in Holmqvist's services along with Atlanta and Chicago.[/url] In addition, there are rumors out of Finland that the Lightning may have reopened discussions with goaltender Fredrik Norrena. Bolt Prospects is attempting to confirm. Norrena would have to be signed prior to June 1st when the Lightning are slated to lose his rights under the CBA.

Lightning Re-Sign Richards To Five Year Deal

The Lightning [url=http://www.tampabaylightning.com/tbl/prdetail.cfm?pressreleaseID=1345]locked up another core player today signing center Brad Richards to a 5 year deal with an average salary of $7.8 million dollars per season.[/url] Richards led the Lightning in scoring last season and in the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup run won both the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The deal pre-empts any potential offer sheets that might've been advanced by other clubs to the potential restricted free agent on July 1st and helps to set the budget for the Lightning's offseason plans to acquire goaltending and blueline help.
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