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)