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.
Bolt Prospects' draft coverage begins with the goaltending position, which has been a perennial sore spot since the founding of the franchise. With the exception of short runs by Darren Puppa in the early days of the team and Nikolai Khabibulin leading up to the team's Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004, the Lightning have always seemed to face uncertainty between the pipes.
With the Lightning prospect season finally completed, it is now time to turn our attention to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. While the team's prospect system enjoyed unprecedented success, the team's struggles at the NHL level last season left the Lightning with a draft pick bonanza after a bevy of pre-deadline deals. Heading into the draft, the Lightning currently holds a pair of first round picks, and at least one second round pick following the trade of picks 37 and 50 to Nashville in the Anders Lindback trade.
It's been a day since the Norfolk Admirals hoisted the Calder Cup for the first time. The amazing thing about championships is that they're a shared milestone in the lives of, really, thousands, between the players, coaches, staff, and fans. Those journeys often contain compelling stories that make the triumph worth that journey. For Jon Cooper, it was about closing down his law practice to coach his way from Michigan high school hockey, to the USHL to working with Hockey USA, to a 2 season sprint to glory in the AHL. For Cory Conacher, it was about not being drafted and playing hockey at off-the-beaten path Canisius, dealing with diabetes, and earning an NHL contract in March of an MVP season before posting 4 assists in the championship clinching Calder Cup Finals game.
The stories of the players and the coaches are the ones we'll read about in the coming months and years, and they should be. When the Lightning made their Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004 and were playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, John Tortorella refused to fire back at Ken Hithcock's remarks about "Italians from Boston," because Torts rightfully understood, "It's about the athletes." Ultimately, they're the ones who score the goals and make the saves. They sacrifice their bodies and take the stitches and they take the slings and arrows if they lose. Ultimately, it's their moment, and to a lesser extent the moments of their families who supported them in the journey up to those moments. The hockey moms and dads who woke up at 6:00 am to drive their kids to games. Scratching together money for skates and ridiculously expensive composite sticks. The wives and significant others who live with the players and coaches through the disappointments and the frustrations, and live in fear of moments when things can go wrong, like when slap shots can hit a man in the ear at 90 miles an hour, similar to what happened to Scott Jackson.
Less compelling, perhaps, is the story of an organization, but, these are stories can be worth telling, too... especially in this case. We started beta testing Bolt Prospects in 2004-2005, one year after the Lightning's Cup win, in the heart of the NHL lockout. That year was also the first year since the Detroit Vipers of the IHL folded after the 2000-2001 season that the Lightning had a full-time minor league affiliate: the Springfield Falcons. Absent a full-time affiliate, it became clear the Lightning would struggle to maintain their spot on top of the hockey mountain, because split affiliates would not give prime ice time and coaching help to another organization's players. That problem prompted the start of an 8 year process for the Lightning that ended in building what must be considered the sport's preeminent developmental apparatus with the Norfolk Admirals' Calder Cup championship and the Florida Everblades' Kelly Cup Championship.
This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions.
We wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospectâ€™s achievement on the ice.
This weekâ€™s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to â€¦ Jaroslav Janus, G, Norfolk Admirals (AHL).
The Norfolk Admirals are in the AHLâ€™s Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in their history, and third-year pro Jaroslav Janus has a lot to do with that.