Looking Ahead to Next Summer

If you thought the Lightning were up against the 50-man limit this summer, consider how many decisions the Lightning will have to make next summer due to the convergence between the 2005 draft class, Europeans from the 2003 draft class, all unsigned Russians drafted in 2002 and earlier as well as graduating NCAA players. [b]2005 Draft Class[/b] D [url=vladimir-mihalik]Vladimir Mihalik[/url] C/LW [url=chris-lawrence]Chris Lawrence[/url] RW Marek Bartanus C [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url] G [url=kevin-beech]Kevin Beech[/url] [b]Europeans from the 2003 Draft Class[/b] RW Raimonds Danilics LW Albert Vishnyakov [b]Russians Drafted in 2002 or Previous[/b] LW Anton But LW/C [url=alexander-polushin]Alexander Polushin[/url] LW Dimitri Bezrukov C Vitali Smolianinov RW Ilya Solarev C/LW Dimitri Kazionov G [url=vasily-koshechkin]Vasily Koshechkin[/url] C Alexei Glukhov RW Pavel Sedov [b]Graduating NCAA Players[/b] D Arthur Femenella* G Joe Pearce* RW Dustin Collins* D [url=mike-lundin]Mike Lundin*[/url] [i]* The Lightning will have one year from their graduation date to sign these players.[/i] It is also expected that 2006 draftee [url=denis-kazionov]Denis Kazionov[/url] will be brought to North America along with his brother and because [url=dane-crowley]Dane Crowley[/url] was selected one year past his draft age the Lightning may be in a position to have to bring him into the fold as well. And then there's the matter of defenseman [url=pj-atherton]P.J. Atherton[/url] whose situation remains unclear. The Lightning hold his rights for one year after his graduation which, we think, means they have him until some time in May of 2007. The Lightning may have the Springfield Falcons sign him to an AHL contract and wait to see how he does in a full season of minor pro before making a decision. In the end, the Lightning may have to find spots for as many as a dozen prospects (although the number will more likely be seven or eight) next summer, meaning there will be some drastic house cleaning at the minor league level next summer. Prospects like [url=adam-henrich]Adam Henrich[/url], John Toffey and Brady Greco will have to have outstanding seasons in the minors just to get qualifying offers and avoid the fates of Gerard Dicaire, Dennis Packard and J.F. Soucy. Borderline prospects on the above lists, particularly Europeans like Albert Vishnyakov and Alexei Glukhov, will have to rise to the occassion this season if they are to take contracts away from more lauded (and more local to North America) prospects in the Lightning organization. 2006-2007 may not only yield the largest crop of summer prospect signees since the early expansion days of the franchise but it looks as if it will have some of the fiercest competition for contracts ever witnessed in team history. Let the cream rise to the top.