Gourde Adds More Skill to Bolts' System

The Tampa Bay Lightning agreed to terms with free agent forward Yanni Gourde, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced Sunday. Gourde will be on an AHL contract for the remainder of 2013-14 season and a two-way NHL contract for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Gourde, 22, has skated in 25 games with the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League this season, posting four goals and 25 points to go along with 26 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound forward ranks first on the Sharks for assists with 21 and ranks third on the club for points. Three of his four goals have been scored on special teams this season, recording a pair of power-play tallies and one shorthanded goal. Gourde has also appeared in 30 games this season with the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL, posting 15 goals and 34 points.

The St. Narcisse, Quebec, native has played in 83 career AHL games over three seasons, all with Worcester, collecting 13 goals and 42 points. Prior to turning pro, Gourde skated four seasons with the Victoriaville Tigers of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He led the QMJHL in scoring during his fourth season with Victoriaville in 2011-12, posting 37 goals and 124 points. Gourde was nominated for the Michel-Briere trophy in 2011-12, given annually to the QMJHL’s most valuable player.

BP Commentary:

We can't recall a year like this when so many Lightning AHL prospects graduated to NHL status. While it is helping the Lightning lay the foundation for its now-and-later roster, it destroyed the defending AHL Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch. The additions of Gourde and Jonathan Marchessault will help the Crunch the rest of this season, but make to mistake - their true value comes next season. With so many impact forwards leaving for Tampa this season, the Crunch hasn't been able to gain defense-through-offence via puck possession. Both Gourde and Marchessault will help in that area, as well as on the scoresheet to take some heat off of Gudlevskis and probably Andrey Vasilevskiy next season. Both prospects are wingers, too, so that will allow Vladdy Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette to retain their scoring-line center roles. If Vladdy finds his way to Tampa Bay at some point, Tanner Richard can step in a top-6 role.

The acquisitions also help bridge the gap between the current crop of prospect graduates and last year's class, which included Paquette and Richard. As it stood, the Lightning really only had Vladdy and Brett Connolly as young forward options ready for recall - and Connolly could be trade bait. This gives the Lightning two more recallable forwards should they need them next year. The Crunch haven't been the luckiest the last two seasons in finding free agent, experienced forwards, either. Perhaps Julien BriseBois is getting a head start on his off-season shopping via trade so he doesn't have to settle for bidding on what's possibly available after European contracts are signed, etc.

Here's a rough estimate at next year's Crunch forwards (the defense is a story for another day):

1. C Vladdy Namestnikov (TB has 4 centers under contract - 5 if you count Drouin, which likely pushes Vladdy down)
2. W Jonathan Marchessault
3. W Yanni Gourde
4. C Cedric Paquette
5. C Tanner Richard
6. W Dalton Smith
7. W Henri Ikonen (OHL Kingston)
8. W Joel Vermin (Switzerland)
9. W Danick Gauthier (ECHL Florida)

Could be re-signed:

10. Brett Connolly (RFA NHL; traded?)
11. Mike Angelidis (NHL; coming off NHL deal)
12. PC Labrie (NHL)
13. Eric Neilson (AHL)
14. Jon DiSalvatore (AHL)

Iffy to be re-signed:

15. Philippe Paradis (RFA NHL; Dalton Smith likely takes his spot)
16. Drew Olson (AHL; I like him, but how long will experiment go?)
17. Geoff Walker (RFA NHL; healthy scratch telling)
18. Evan Rankin (AHL; has been satisfactory; DiSalvatore preferred?)
19. Max Parent (AHL contract)
20. Carl Neilsen (AHL)