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Confirmed: Helbling Gone

According to Tampa Bay General Manager Jay Feaster, the Lightning released Timo Helbling. "While it is tough to find good young defensemen," Feaster stated, "our Tampa Bay coaching staff, in particular, Craig Ramsay, felt that Timo simply wasn't picking-up and demonstrating a willingness to play our system." Feaster also mentioned Springfield coaches were frustrated with what was perceived to be a failure on Helbling's part to learn from his mistakes. Also, the additions of Andy Delmore and Doug Janik caused Helbling to re-examine his role with the club and the restricted free agent who played in nine games with Tampa last season was seeking a one-way contract from the team. The club was not going to give him a one-way contract and combined with the above-stated issues, the team and Helbling mutually agreed to his release. This leaves the Lightning with 48 contracts against the 50-man limit. ***8/10 Update: Helbling has signed with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. The Bears also signed defenseman Don Grover, who participated in the Lightning's prospect camp last month as a tryout player. He had been invited to Springfield's camp as a tryout player.

Helbling Gone?

Eurohockey.net [url=http://www.eurohockey.net/transfers/last_24_hours.html]is reporting the rumor that Timo Helbling has been dealt to the Washington Capitals.[/url] In multiple local print stories Helbling had been mentioned as a possibility to make the Lightning this season along with defenseman [url=doug-obrien]Doug O'Brien.[/url] This story is developing. [b]Update:[/b] The source of the Helbling to Washington rumor is [url=http://www.eishockey.ch/news/detail.asp?ID=248853]an article on the website eishockey.ch.[/url] According to the site, Helbling has signed a two-way contract with the Capitals as an unrestricted free agent. This story is still developing. [b]Update Two:[/b] The story of Helbling leaving as a UFA doesn't jibe with several websites which list Helbling as an RFA [url=http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?page=2006freelist]including ESPN.com.[/url] It should also be noted that within the past 48 hours [url=http://www.nhlpa.com/WebStats/PlayerBiography.asp?ID=7031]NHLPA.com began listing Helbling as signed this season for the league minimum of $450,000.[/url] [b]Update Three:[/b] [url=http://www.hockeyfans.ch/news_portal/news.php?id=15811&month=8&year=06&modus=]Hockeyfans.ch reports that Helbling has reached verbal agreement with the Caps[/url] on a two-way deal and that Helbling had been preparing to play this season with Kloten in the Swiss league.

Quick's Decision Could Come This Week

The Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL have released their [b]25-man roster[/b] for the upcoming season. Lightning draftee and unofficial 2006 Prospect Camp MVP Kevin Quick's name is not on the roster as he and his family continue to consider his options for both his education and hockey development. Quick was drafted in the 18th round by Green Bay in this year's USHL draft. The youngster was a stand-out at the recent prospect camp in Tampa, prompting Tampa Bay General Manager Jay Feaster to tab him the camp MVP. The team stated they would try to convince the defenseman to play junior hockey in the USHL this year rather than return to Salisbury Prep for his senior year of high school. Salisbury won the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association championship last season. According to Feaster, the team and the Quick family remain in talks and Kevin is still considering the option of playing junior. A final decision could be made by late this week or early next. Classes at Salisbury begin September 12. Green Bay opens their season on October 14.

Lightning Crafting a Development Machine Top to Bottom

It's a story we didn't really cover a week ago, but the Lightning [url=http://www.tbo.com/sports/lightning/MGBOP3QIBQE.html]have named Ryan Belec their new VP of Hockey Operations for the Johnstown Chiefs[/url], a sort of hockey liason similar to the role Claude Loiselle has been assigned with the Springfield Falcons. Not so coincidentally, the move was made around the time of the Lightning's prospect camp, an affair which cost the team $100,000 as they assembled not only many of their own top draft choices for conditioning and evaluation but 20 tryouts vying for potential contracts organization wide. It's not until you look at the numbers game playing out in the organization that you fully understand where this is headed. The Lightning are turning their entire minor league organization top to bottom into a developmental machine for young prospects. Last season the Johnstown Chiefs did what they've always done under the command of GM Toby O'Brien. They scrambled to recruit journeymen ECHL players to add to a group of regular Johnstown based players in the hopes they'd gel with a sprinkling of players that might trickle down from the AHL. Not so this season. Already, with the number of contracts already held by Lightning players/prospects as well as contracts held by the Springfield Falcons it appears at least a dozen prospects are already pencilled in for jobs in Johnstown. That makes no mention of potential signees out of the group of players the Lightning invited to their Traverse City team as well as to Springfield Falcons training camp. It would be no surprise if as many as 3 or 4 other prospects were signed by the Falcons or Chiefs and placed in Johnstown. That means this year's edition of the Johnstown Chiefs will be dominated by youth with only a smattering of veteran players around them. The skill level of the team should increase although there will be a corresponding loss in experience. The goal, however, is clear. The team appears to be serious in their move to identify and develop as many potential NHL talents as possible with a view towards finding players they can plug in to the big club at a moment's notice. And, given the nature of the salary cap in today's NHL, it seems a wise move. Young talent plays at a cheaper price and having young talent is the only sustainable way to keep a high priced core with players like Lecavalier and Richards taking such a large percentage of the budget over the long term. The biggest hurdle the Lightning will have to jump to make this new model of development successful is to get their players to disregard the stigma that has long been held about the ECHL being an inferior league. Already the team's goaltenders have seen the benefits of playing at the ECHL level but will these benefits become apparent in their ECHL level skaters as well? The Lightning are apparently banking on it with high profile prospects like [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url] looking more and more like they will be in a Chiefs uniform to start the year. If they can convince these prospects of the benefit of playing on a scoring line at the equivalent of the AA level rather than sparing checking line ice time at the equivalent of AAA the Lightning may very well succeed in crafting what could be a model developmental system for the rest of the NHL to emulate.

Mark Gandler, The NHL's Drew Rosenhaus

According to Erlendsson's column for tomorrow's Tampa Tribune, Evgeny Artyukhin's handler through this mess of a situation is none other than notorious agent [url=http://www.nhlpa.com/Agents/Agent.asp?AgentId=9292]Mark Gandler.[/url] Meet the NHL's equivalent of football agent [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Rosenhaus]Drew Rosenhaus.[/url] Google Gandler's name and you'll find a festering rash of stories highlighting the kind of greedy and unprincipled behavior which turns fans off to pro sports and makes their collective skin crawl. Most notable in his career was Gandler's part in the one year holdout of former Senators center Alexei Yashin, complete with accusations of racism hurled at the Ottawa front office, and Yashin's subsequent cashing in to the tune of a 10 year multi-million dollar deal at the hands of foolish Islanders GM Mike Milbury. More recently, Gandler was involved in the messy court entanglements surrounding young Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin. Sadly, in much the same way that Rosenhaus seems to have cornered the market on talent coming into the NFL from South Florida, Gandler, a Russian expatriate now working out of New Jersey, controls a large percentage of players coming out of the former Soviet Union. Artyukhin is just one of the newest of a list of players that includes other NHLers like Yashin, Semin, Ruslan Salei and Vitaly Vishnevski of the Ducks who, you guessed it, is now demanding a trade after the Ducks apparently [url=http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/sports/pros/article_1228728.php]hurt his feelings in arbitration.[/url] Evgeny Artyukhin, do yourself a favor, seek other representation. In trying to squeeze an extra $150,000 out of the Tampa Bay Lightning Gandler has potentially burned your bridge to an organization which has bent over backwards to develop you. I know how GM Jay Feaster feels about you personally. I know the pride he feels in you when he crows about how he filed one of the first scouting reports on you from the U-18s in your draft year. When he says he feels like you and Gandler have spit in his face, don't take it lightly, he means it. And, believe this, you're too young and not nearly established enough after a 4 goal rookie season to have an agent making personal enemies on your behalf. Think about that the next time Gandler tries to whisper in your ear.
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