Ward had been placed on waivers and cleared just over a week ago, and had been awaiting word on his playing future with the organization. Ward has been a scratch for all but one game this season, but indicated to the Tribune's Eric Erlendsson that he was relieved to have an opportunity to play instead of watching, even if it was at the AHL level. Ward's future with the Lightning had been in doubt since early in the summer when the new ownership group begin acquiring an abundance of forward depth. Ward's arrival in Norfolk will put the team 2 players over the veteran roster limit, which means Admirals head coach Darren Rumble will have decisions to make on who will play and who will sit.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forward Justin Keller to the Norfolk Admirals from the ECHL's Augusta Lynx, Admirals General Manager Mike Butters announced today.
Keller, 22, is a 6'0", 181-pound forward from Nelson, British Columbia. He was originally assigned from Norfolk to Augusta on October 22 and put up four goals and an assist in four games with the Lynx. In two games for Norfolk to begin this season, the third-year pro registered one assist.
Keller was one of just three players with a Lightning NHL contract that was not invited to this year's training camp, and has struggled to distinguish himself with the new forward depth in the Tampa system that the new club ownership has acquired. In two prior professional seasons with Norfolk and Springfield, Keller has scored 28 goals and 23 assists in 130 AHL games played. Keller's three-year entry-level contract expires at the end of this season.
Multiple local Tampa sources are reporting today that Lightning overaged defensive prospect Janne Niskala cleared waivers at noon and will be reassigned to a European team. Niskala had reportedly signed a contract at the beginning of the summer with a European KHL team, prompting the Nashville Predators to trade his rights to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning subsequently acquired Niskala's rights from the Flyers just prior to the beginning of free agency for a 2009 6th round pick, and signed the blueliner to a one-year contract with a European out-clause in case he was unable to make the Tampa roster.
Niskala earned a roster spot in training camp with solid offensive contributions both at even strength and on the power play. But the acquisitions of Lucas Krajicek and Marek Malik to the Lightning's blueline along with the return of Paul Ranger from IR after the team returned from their season openers in Prague relegated Niskala to the pressbox as the team's seventh defenseman. Niskala was reportedly unhappy about being scratched and recently met with Tampa GM Brian Lawton to discuss his future with the club.
With the European leagues on break, Niskala was reassigned to the Swedish National Team, and will eventually join a yet unnamed club in the SM-Liiga. Niskala will be available prior to the trade deadline for recall to Tampa, but would need to clear recall waivers. Niskala scored 1 goal and added 2 assists in 6 games for the Lightning this season.
The Norfolk Admirals have reassigned Lightning prospect forward Justin Keller to the Augusta Lynx of ECHL. Keller, on the third year of his entry level contract, has registered 1 assist in 3 games for the Admirals this season. Keller was Norfolk's representative at last season's AHL All-Star game, finishing the season third on the team in goals and fourth in points.
The 6â€™0â€, 181-pound forward from Nelson, British Columbia was an 8th round draft pick of the Lightning in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, making his pro debut in 2006-07 with the AHLâ€™s Springfield Falcons. His 13 goals, 4 power play goals and 24 points led all Springfield rookies. In 132 career American Hockey League games, Keller has scored 28 goals and added 34 assists for 62 points with 71 penalty minutes.
Prior to turning pro, Keller played three seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. In 216 games with Kelowna, Keller scored 107 goals and 80 assists. He led the WHL with 51 goals in 2005-06 and scored the Memorial Cup winning goal with the Rockets in 2004.
Keller's addition to the Lynx should result in an immediate impact on Augusta's offense, as Keller has a sniper's touch and a willingness to play in the high traffic areas.
According to a report in the Augusta Chronicle, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned goaltending prospect and 2006 1st round pick Riku Helenius from the AHL's Norfolk Admirals to the ECHL's Augusta Lynx. This move was not unexpected as Helenius had been a healthy scratch for both of Norfolk's season opening games last weekend behind goaltenders Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna.
Helenius joins Tampa defensive prospect Kevin Quick who was reassigned last week, and the Lynx expect Helenius' arrival by as early as noon on Thursday. The Lynx open their 2008-09 season at home Friday night against the Mississippi Sea Wolves.
This season might prove to be a challenge for the Lynx with a relatively young and inexperienced roster comprised of nine rookies and seven more 2nd year pros. No player on the Lynx roster qualifies as an ECHL veteran of 250 professional games.