The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they had extended qualifying offers to five of their eight pending restricted free agents. Defensemen Keith Aulie, Brian Lee, Brendan Mikkelson, and Evan Oberg along with goaltender Jaroslav Janus received the required offers to guarantee the Bolts retain exclusive rights to these players. It is expected that Tampa will come to terms with contract extensions with these five players sometime during the summer.
Recently required goaltender Anders Lindback received a qualifying offer from the Nashville Predators prior to his trade to the Lightning last week.
Defenseman Sebastien Piche and forward Benoit Pouliot were not tendered qualifying offers, and will be unrestricted free agents on July 1. Pouliot was acquired Saturday from the Boston Bruins during the 2012 NHL Draft, and is expected to sign an extension with the Bolts prior to start of the NHL free agency signing period on Sunday. Pouliot has arbitration rights as a pending restricted free agent, and the Lightning's decision not to qualify Pouliot is speculated as a means to circumvent Pouliot electing player arbitration later this summer.
Piche was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in the Kyle Quincey/First Round Pick trade. The Red Wings needed a spot in their 50-man roster and Piche was sent to Tampa Bay. He was one of the leaders for the ECHL Florida Everblades as they won the Kelly Cup. The writing was on the wall for Piche's future when the third year pro was not recalled to Norfolk following the conclusion of Florida's season.
As uncertain as things have traditionally been for the Lightning between the pipes, the defenseman position may be even more unsettled at this point in the offseason. After cheating father time for much of the 2011-2012 season, age caught up to many of the Lightning's veteran defensemen in 2012-2013. Mattias Ohlund may never play another NHL game after the 35 year old's knee finally gave out after over 900 games of NHL service.
Controversially, Norfolk gets to Marc Bureau (#28) to conclude the regular season.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for his 15th consecutive victory. He'll finish the season tied for 8th in the AHL in victories with 23 and tops on the Admrials with a .914 save percentage, one point better than tandem-mate Dustin Tokarski and his .913 mark. Tokarski finishes with a league leading 32 wins, for his part. It's never a bad thing when you have 2 goalies in the top-10 in the league in wins.
ADK Holmstrom, (15) (Manning, Gustafsson), 2:19 (PP)
NOR Segal, (18) (Smith, Conacher), 15:30
NOR Conacher, (37) (Segal), 17:27
ADK Akeson, (14) (Testwuide), 12:15
NOR Conacher, (38) (Segal, Smith), 18:00
NOR Conacher, (39) (Segal), 19:58 (EN)
Why controversial, you ask? With 14 seconds remaining in the final frame, Adirondack had a goal waved off for goaltender interference after defenseman Keith Aulie got beat wide by the Phantoms' Mike Testuwide, a sin he committed far too often earlier this season with the Lightning. Norfolk dodged a big bullet with the wave off to secure their 28th consecutive victory, much to the chagrin of the Phantoms and their fans. In fairness to Aulie, Adirondack would have never been that close were it not for a horrendous turnover by Tyler Johnson that allowed Adirondack to score their second goal. Heading into the playoffs, everyone's got to tighten up that much more.
There's one more bit of regular season business to wrap up now. With Cory Conacher scoring his first professional hat trick, he has moved out to a 2 goal lead over Texas' Matt Fraser for the Willie Marshall Award, the AHL's equivalent of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Conacher entered the day 1 goal behind Fraser, and was actually benched again today, momentarily, after taking a delay-of-game minor. Once he got back on the ice again, though, he and linemate Brandon Segal made sure that their efforts in the Admirals' final regular season game would leave some Exit Wounds. As of this posting, Fraser has just about 15 minutes left to try and score 2 goals to get back even with Conacher, who picked just the right time to get back on track offensively.
Richard Panik failed to score a goal in his final 7 games of the regular season, leaving him 1 shy of a 20 goal rookie campaign. It's just about the only goal, personal or team, that someone on the Admirals didn't manage to accomplish, although Conacher's hat trick did leave him 1 shy of 40, in retrospect.
Norfolk now draws the Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the playoffs, beginning next Friday with Game One. Because of a scheduling conflict with an annual military drill and band show, the Admirals won't have home ice advantage for the best-of-five series despite finishing 30 points ahead of the Monarchs in the standings. Norfolk and Manchester haven't played all season, and in the playoffs just as in boxing, styles make the fight, so we'll see how these two teams match up. Manchester is veteran laden, but is missing a couple of good younger players that are currently up with the LA Kings for their playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks. I think the lack of familiarity may play in the Admirals' favor, as Manchester is a little bit older and hasn't seen the speed that Norfolk brings to the rink both with their skating and the transition game that guys like Mark Barberio and Mike Kostka start from the blueline, but you never know until the game gets onto the ice. With so many rookies contributing to Norfolk's success that have never seen professional playoff hockey, we don't know how they'll react to the pressure, especially in a nightmare scenario if Manchester can pick off one of the first two games at Scope.
It's critically important that the Admirals set the 28 game regular season streak aside and focus on the fact they desperately need to set the tone quickly and win Game One and Game Two in Norfolk. Fortunately, the Admirals have the AHL Coach of the Year, Jon Cooper, to get them refocused for the postseason. The Admirals also got Jon Kalinski back in the lineup this weekend, and the expectation is that Mike Angelidis will be back next weekend for the club. So, other than Richard Petiot, Norfolk looks to be almost completely healthy heading into the looming war of attrition that is professional playoff hockey.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus stopped 20 of 21 shots for his 14th straight victory. He now has a .914 save percentage and is tied for 8th in the league in wins.
NOR Smith, (25) (Segal), 2:55
NOR Ouellet, (16) (Aulie), 7:17
NOR Oberg, (7) (Palat, Johnson), 17:29
NOR Segal, (17) (Picard, Kostka), 5:17
NOR Devos, (7) (Aulie, Ouellet), 7:07
ALB Zharkov, (16) (Gelinas, Perkovich), 14:13 (PP)
Good to see Keith Aulie get off to a strong start for the Admirals. These 20-30 games coming up to end the regular season and the playoffs are so crucial for his development to get him ready to potentially take an NHL spot in the Fall. It might very well be the most critical 20-30 games of his career, thus far.
After a brief stint in the NHL, Brandon Segal is Out for a Kill!
26 straight wins and the Admirals keep rolling. I mentioned last weekend how impressed I was that the team has been winning these close games late in the last dozen or so games of the streak, and it is impressive. But, there's no substitute for running out to a 3-0 lead and crushing a team early like they did tonight and like they were doing a lot in the first half of the streak. They have 2 games left in the regular season and take their unprecedented streak of excellence into Binghamton tomorrow night.
For those scoreboard watching and wondering who Norfolk's first round opponent will be, both Manchester and Portland got big wins tonight, but Syracuse is getting hammered by Rochester 5-1 late in the third. If the Syracuse score holds up, then Portland will jump into 7th place at 81 points with 1 game left on their schedule, Syracuse will drop to 8th place at 80 points with 2 games left, and Manchester will be at 79 points in 9th place with 2 games left. Adirondack still has a mathematical chance, as they can still get to 80 points if they win their last 2 games, but it really looks like Portland, Syracuse, and Rochester fighting for 2 spots, and the potential of an ironic and interesting Norfolk/Syracuse first round matchup looms large.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have assigned defenseman Keith Aulie to the Norfolk Admirals, Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Aulie, 6-foot-6, 217 pounds, appeared in 36 NHL games this season between the Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, recording three assists and 29 penalty minutes. Aulie played in 17 games with the Maple Leafs, collecting two assists and 16 penalty minutes before being acquired by the Lightning on February 27 in exchange for Carter Ashton. Aulie then appeared in 19 games with Tampa Bay, posting one assist and 13 penalty minutes. In 76 career NHL games, Aulie has scored two goals and five points with 61 penalty minutes.
Aulie also skated in 23 games with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL this season, recording one assist and 30 penalty minutes. The 22-year-old native of Regina, Saskatchewan, has skated in 107 career AHL games with the Marlies and Abbotsford Heat, posting five goals and 16 points. He represented the Marlies at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic in Hershey, PA last season.
Aulie was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round, 116th overall, of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired by Toronto along with Fredrik Sjostrom and Dion Phaneuf from Calgary in exchange for Jamal Mayers, Niklas Hagman, Matthew Stajan and Ian White on January 31, 2010. (News Observer photo)
This season will be remembered 5 years from now as a minor speed bump on the ride of a lifetime.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. If that was Roli's last NHL game, I'm glad the boys played him out with a win.
TB Purcell (22), (Lecavalier), 17:49
TB Purcell (23), (Lecavalier, Brown), 1:12
WPG Antropov (15), (Miettinen, Kane), 8:53
TB Stamkos (60), (St. Louis, Lee), 3:29
WPG Slater (12), (Clitsome, Enstrom), 4:59
WPG Slater (13), (Wheeler, Ladd), 19:07
TB Purcell (24), (Hedman), 1:08
Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.
This game had just about all the elements you wanted to see to reaffirm that the Lightning, despite the struggles of this season, are on a path to longterm prosperity. Despite all their problems and despite unilaterally disarming at the trade deadline, the club finished 2 games over .500. Yes, there's several things to fix both between the pipes and defensively, as evidenced by the team finishing worst in goals against, but these guys aren't losers, even when the going gets tough. They have the character winning organizations are premised on.
Individually, the big story will obviously be Steven Stamkos' 60th goal and his second Richard Trophy. He's the best young player in the game, but we all knew that. I was far more intrigued by the B stories in this game.
Teddy Purcell's second half seems to me to be a clear sign he's ready to erupt into stardom next season, and the thing Lightning fans should be giddy about is that Teddy can produce on both Stamkos and Lecavalier's line. That gives the coaching staff a lot of flexibility.
Another B story is the young defensemen on this team. These are young guys who bring the kind of elite mobility that Guy Boucher's system really needs, and they started to produce down the stretch of the year. No offense to guys like Pavel Kubina, who did yoeman's work for the team, but the new blood has the pace to play this system the way it ought to be played. I'm looking at Victor Hedman ending the season with points in 7 of his last 9 games. I'm looking at Brian Lee with points in 4 of his last 5 games of the season, and 8 points in 20 games with the Lightning, which pro-rates to a 33 point season. Here are two guys I believe can and should be in the 30-40 point range next year, and, heck, even Eric Brewer was showing more toward the end of the season. You mix in what I believe Brendan Mikkelson has shown, and that's 4 guys to invest some hope in. You go out on the free agent market and add 1-2 more good defenseman and get a healthy Marc-Andre Bergeron into the mix, and you'll get a top-7 that can play Boucher's system well.
Beyond that, there's an obvious need in goal that Steve Yzerman has clearly stockpiled a ridiculous amount of draft picks to address. Between the draft picks and the amount of quality young forward prospects in this organization, I dare say Yzerman will not be outbid by anyone.
And then there's what we can expect to see added from Norfolk and their ongoing 25-game winning streak next year, and the youth in the system, as a whole.. More youth, more speed, and more confidence at the forward position. The likely AHL defenseman of the year in Mark Barberio. Two goaltenders playing out of their minds in Norfolk and another guy in Finland, Riku Helenius, who also just can't seem to lose. It's an embarassment of riches, and you will see a training camp next season where you may very well see darn near 30 NHL caliber players fighting tooth and nail for 23 spots. Good problems to have.
Keith Aulie had 3 hits in 11:48. He's on Norfolk's Clear Day roster, which means he should be sent down after Lightning exit interviews and begin what I feel will be a critical 20-30 games worth of development in his young career. The crucible of the AHL playoffs could make him into a player to be reckoned with.
J.T. Brown got his first NHL point, an assist, and was +2 with 2 shots in 13:52. J.T., my friend, before you leave Tampa, beg Steven Stamkos to let you go train with him with Gary Roberts. Promise him your first born. Do whatever it takes to go spend this offseason getting ready to take the pounding of an 82 game NHL season, because if you do, you might have the talent to be a Calder Trophy winner next season. But, for you, that award will be won in June, July and August, not October through April.
J.T. Wyman was -3 with 1 shot in 13:25. Wyman finishes the season with 40 NHL games, 1 shy of what he needs for graduation from prospect status on BoltProspects. Ain't that a shame? He'll start from scratch next year needing 39 games to graduate via the 82 game rule on the site.
Unlucky Connolly keeps Lightning from clinching a winning record for the season.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the overtime loss. Deserved better, perhaps.
TB St. Louis (25), (Lee, Malone), 5:49
TOR Connolly (13), (Gardiner, Steckel), 6:32
TB Stamkos (59), (Gervais, St. Louis), 8:48
TOR Gardiner (7), (unassisted), 17:05
TOR Phaneuf (11), (Kessel), 4:01
Steven Stamkos was named the game's third star. He'll get one crack to get the one goal he needs to get to 60.
Congratulations to Martin St. Louis for his 9th straight 25 goal season. That's amazing consistency from a small player who played the bulk of his career in the clutch and grab era.
In case I haven't mentioned it, I loves me some Brian Lee. 3 shots, 5 hits, and he set up Marty's goal. Steve Yzerman robbed Ottawa blind in that deal. Not saying Gilroy's a bum, but Lee is a potential stud 2-way blueliner in this league, and I'm still stunned why the Sens gave up on him. The only thing I can think is that he never blew up offensively to the degree they thought he would. Still, to give up that skating ability and that willingness to step up and deliver a hit for a player as inconsistent as Gilroy? C'mon, man.
Brett Connolly will look back on his rookie season one day and laugh. It's been a hard one, and tonight's own-goal put the punctuation on that. He's immensely talented and creative, though. There are better days ahead.
Keith Aulie had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:50 against his old club. Good for him breaking the 15 minute barrier in IT.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:11. It'd be nice to see him hit the scoresheet in the finale.
J.T. Wyman had 5 shots and 1 hit in 10:52. The coaches love him. He'll enter next season a slight favorite for a spot in Tampa Bay, I surmise.
Seems like the Lightning may have let all the air out at the home finale.
Sebastien Caron allowed 5 goals on 25 shots for the loss. Not a good effort for a guy looking for an NHL gig next season.
MTL Emelin (3), (Desharnais, Budaj), 2:11
TB Lecavalier (22), (unassisted), 7:26
MTL Cole (33), (Desharnais, Pacioretty), 1:42
MTL Cole (34), (Plekanec, Markov)(PP), 14:34
TB Gervais (6), (Wallace, Hedman), 3:42
MTL Pacioretty (31), (Gorges, Plekanec), 5:58
MTL Pacioretty (32), (Subban), 14:57
It makes me ill to see David Desharnais do so well and to know we had him in camp and the only thing we were willing to offer him at the time was a 3-way deal in the Coast. Painful. It was obvious years ago he had this in him.
Vincent Lecavalier has scored 373 goals in his NHL career, and probably none were easier than that gift from Budaj. That was pitiful.
Keith Aulie was -1 with 1 hit in 11:10.
J.T. Brown was +1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:56.
J.T. Wyman was +1 with 2 hits in 9:52.
"To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"
Dwayne Roloson allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory.
WSH Semin (20), (Perrault), 12:47
TB Purcell (21), (Stamkos, St. Louis)(PP), 17:20
TB Hedman (5), (Thompson, Pyatt), 17:45
WSH Chimera (20), (Semin), 16:43
TB Stamkos (57), (Clark, Lee), 18:57
TB Stamkos (58), (Thompson, Brewer)(EN), 19:59
I loathe the Caps. I loathe their fans. I loathe their players. I loathe the Ovechtrick. I loathe the lack of respect they have for their own talents. I loathe their lack of respect for the game they play. I even loathe their lack of respect for their own coaches. I hate missing the playoffs, but if we have to, sticking a harpoon in the Caps' playoff hopes is a decent consolation prize. Loved burying them in the playoffs last season. Love putting them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs this year.
Keith Aulie was -2 with 4 hits in 12:11. And, old Aulie returneth.
J.T. Brown had 5 shots and 1 blocked shot in 11:45. That move. In the third period. You know the one I'm talking about. The spin-o-rama from behind the cage for the stuff attempt in front. That's something you try in a summer roller hockey league. Few players have the creativity or the guts to try that in a pro game. Have mercy. Gotta get at least 15 pounds of muscle on this young man, but he has the talent.
J.T. Wyman (pictured, but not really) was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:27.
Impressive debuts and #91 with a hammer.
Sebastien Caron made his first start in a Lightning jersey and was excellent stopping 26 of 28 for the victory. Let him play out the season and earn himself an NHL contract somewhere for next season, I say.
TB Malone (19), (unassisted), 15:37
WPG Miettinen (5), (Kane, Stuart), 6:20
WPG Wellwood (18), (Byfuglien, Stapleton), 9:28
TB Malone (20), (Purcell, Hedman)(PP), 7:25
TB Stamkos (56), (Lee), 0:45
Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars. Congratulations to Ryan Malone, who raced from 15 to 20 goals in the hockey equivalent of a blink of an eye this week. It'd be fun to see what Malone could do if he could stay healthy for an entire season. Stamkos, for his part, sets a new NHL record with 5 overtime game winning goals in a season, as he continues his push to get to 60 goals. Pretty cool.
What I really enjoyed about this game was the way the young players received opportunities and showed something. Brett Connolly looked good, Victor Hedman kept up his points streak and got in a little scrap, and I'll write about J.T. Brown in a bit. Even Keith Aulie had a pretty positive game, in my mind, and it seemed like Brendan Mikkelson got to play a ton, too. Oh, and Brian Lee was damned impressive with 6 hits tonight. You're seeing a lot of good young pieces playing well in both Tampa Bay and in Norfolk, and you've got the best young player in the game in Steven Stamkos. Mix in another lottery pick, and this season's going to seem like a minor pothole in the grand scheme of things. My only regret is that, in beating Winnipeg, the team may have lost an opportunity to get into the top 5-6 picks of this draft. Some scouting organizations judge this a 5 player draft, as far as impact players go. I judge it a 5+1 or 2, right now, especially given the situation with Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk losing so much time to injury this year, a la Connolly in his draft year. And I still want that little, mean-spirited Dan Boyle clone from Red Deer. The Lightning would be picking 9th now, pending the outcome of the lottery drawing, based on my quick look at the standings. Maybe they can get the ping pong balls to bounce their way and still move up 4 spots into the top-5.
Aulie had 1 shot and 3 hits in 13:37. He was good tonight. I know, I was surprised, too. He was physical. He had some interesting little offensive zone forays. He wasn't a pylon. That was more like it. And, you can now tell your children where you were when Keith Aulie finally broke the 13 minute barrier in a game that wasn't completely out of hand.
J.T. Wyman had 4 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:26. Old J.T. overshadowed by new J.T.
J.T. Brown had 2 shots in 13:33 in his NHL debut. Color me impressed. He's a very, very good skater and he showed some decent early chemistry with both Vincent Lecavalier and Brett Connolly, and those are two players that aren't the easiest to read off of because they're both creative stickhandlers. He looked pretty responsible defensively in terms of his positioning, too. You can tell he was well coached at Minnesota-Duluth. I don't know if he can be as physically active at 170 pounds in the NHL as he was in college, but I'm looking forward to him getting on the Steven Stamkos training regime this offseason and seeing him add that element into his game next year, because his college film will remind you of Jeremy Roenick, at times. That was a quality signing.