TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have issued qualifying offers to seven players today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
The deadline for NHL clubs to issue offers is today. By issuing qualifying offers to the aforementioned players, the Lightning are given the right of the first refusal or draft choice compensation should the player sign an offer sheet with another NHL club.
Forward David Broll was not issued a qualifying offer and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016.
BP Commentary (Chad): Really no huge surprises here. McGinn is a nice depth forward who will continue to help Syracuse. Gourde was not part of the Black Aces last year despite being a call-up earlier in the season, but he was hurt. He's also nice depth, a year removed from leading the Crunch in goals. Nesterov was a no-brainer though he's been passed by Slater Koekkoek, but again, depth. Broll's exit isn't surprising. Boko Imama could take his spot as the Crunch's pugilist, though he doesn't have a contract. Boko can go back to Saint John as an overager, or he could be signed to an AHL deal and have his rights retained, and therefore wouldn't count against the organization's 50-man roster. The guess here is Tampa Bay is in a wait-and-see mode over the summer.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Cedric Paquette to a two-year, one-way NHL contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Paquette, 22, skated in 56 games with the Lightning last season, recording six goals and 11 points to go along with 51 penalty minutes. His 51 penalty minutes ranked fourth on the Bolts during the regular season. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound forward was one of five Lightning players to notch a shorthanded tally last season. Paquette also appeared in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2016, posting one assist and 24 penalty minutes. He ranked third on the Bolts during the postseason for penalty minutes.
The Gaspe, Quebec, native has played in 122 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, over the past three seasons, registering 18 goals and 31 points to go along with 102 penalty minutes. Paquette recorded his first and lone career hat trick against the Detroit Red Wings on January 29, 2015 at Amalie Arena.
Paquette was originally drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round, 101st overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward J.T. Brown to a two-year, one-way NHL contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Brown, 25, skated in 78 games with the Lightning during the 2015-16 season, notching eight goals and 22 points to go along with 59 penalty minutes. He ranked tied for third on the Bolts with a plus-16 rating. Brown also set career bests for games played, goals, points, plus/minus and penalty minutes this past season. The 5’10, 175-pound forward played in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2016, notching two assists and two penalty minutes.
The Burnsville, Minnesota, native has appeared in 198 career NHL games, all with the Lightning over four seasons, registering 15 goals and 51 points to go along with 95 penalty minutes. He has also played in 37 playoff games with the Lightning, recording a goal and six points.
Brown was originally signed by the Lightning as a free agent on March 28, 2012.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Luke Witkowski to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Witkowski, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, appeared in four games with the Lightning in 2015-16. He also made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, skating in two games during the second round against the New York Islanders. Witkowski also played in 70 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, recording three goals and 14 points. He ranked third on the team for games played and led all blue-liners for plus/minus with a plus-2 rating.
A native of Holland, Michigan, Witkowski has played in 20 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, during the previous two seasons, registering 19 penalty minutes. He has also amassed 199 career AHL games, all with Syracuse, with seven goals, 34 points and 465 penalty minutes. Witkowski has skated in three career Calder Cup Playoff games, all during the 2015 playoffs, and recorded an assist.
Witkowski was drafted in the sixth round, 160th overall, of the 2008 NHL Draft.
Vermin, 24, skated in six games with the Lightning during the 2015-16 regular season, recording one assist and a plus-1 rating. He made his NHL debut on November 19 and recorded his first point on November 21 at the Anaheim Ducks. Vermin recorded a season-high for ice time on November 21 against the Ducks with 12:22.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound forward also appeared in 37 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League this past season, posting nine goals and 21 points to go along with six penalty minutes. Vermin ranked 10th on the Crunch for points despite only skating in 37 games. He has played in 118 career AHL games over three seasons, all with Syracuse, recording 22 goals and 55 points.
A native of Frauenkappelen, Switzerland, Vermin was selected by the Lightning in the seventh round, 186th overall, of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Richard, 23, played in 71 games for the Crunch during the 2015-16 season, recording 11 goals and 54 points to go along with 57 penalty minutes. He ranked first on the Crunch for points and assists (43). Richard’s 71 games played also ranked second on Syracuse. The Jona, Switzerland native has appeared in 214 career AHL games, all with the Crunch over four seasons, notching 26 goals and 112 points.
The 6-foot, 195-pound forward appeared in 95 games with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League over two seasons, posting 24 goals and 110 points. During the 2012-13 season while with the Storm, he led the team for assists with 51 and ranked second for points with 62.
Richard was selected by the Lightning in the third round, 71st overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Anthony Cirelli to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Cirelli, 18, played in 62 games with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League this season, recording 21 goals and 59 points to go along with 27 penalty minutes. He ranked first on the team for assists (38) and points. The Woodbridge, Ontario native also led all Oshawa skaters for power-play goals (10) and power-play points (16). Cirelli made his pro debut with the Syracuse Crunch on April 15, 2016 in a match-up against the Utica Comets.
The 6-foot, 171-pound forward has skated in 130 career OHL games over two seasons with the Generals, registering 34 goals and 95 points to go along with 49 penalty minutes. During his rookie campaign in 2014-15, Cirelli led all Oshawa rookies for points, also ranking ninth in the OHL in that category.
Cirelli was selected by the Lightning in the third round, 75th overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Not mentioned in the Lightning's release is the face Cirelli was named captain of the Gens after the trade deadline this year. The Gens were in a rebuilding year after winning the Memorial Cup last spring on Cirelli's double overtime goal. He's a do-it-all player who has a high level of will and grit to battle along the boards or in front of the net, where he scored the Cup-winning goal. As with Vlad Namestnikov at this age, Cirelli has a lot of weight and bulk to add to his frame, but he has the makings of a versatile NHL forward one day who can excel in the faceoff circle.
He played fourth line with the Gens early in the championship year and worked his way up to Line 3 and eventually some scoring line time. He was a first-liner from the get-go last season and will be a focal point of Oshawa next year when he returns to the OHL.
Cirelli's journey to the NHL will likely include at least a couple years with Syracuse, but his versatility could get him there sooner than expected. Being prepared physically for the day-to-day grind of pro hockey will be a determining factor, but there's plenty of time for that.
Cirelli didn't have to be signed this spring as the Lightning had until next June to ink him to a contract. It was a nice gesture of confidence by Tampa Bay to do so now, and they could make a similar gesture to Mathieu Joseph of Saint John of the QMJHL, who had a similar breakout season to Cirelli. Another prospect signing to watch out for is Boko Imama, also of Saint John, who is eligible to play in the AHL next year. Imama could also come to camp without a contract and if the Lightning see fit, could send him back to the Q as an overager to continue his development. He could fulfill the David Broll-role with the Crunch next year, however.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have hired Benoit Groulx to become the head coach of its American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, Crunch General Manager Julien BriseBois announced today.
Groulx, 48, was the head coach and general manager for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League during the 2015-16 season, guiding his team to a record of 46-19-2-1. The Olympiques were defeated in the 2016 QMJHL Quarter-Final by the Moncton Wildcats four games to two.
Groulx has worked 13 total seasons as a head coach in the QMJHL with the Hull/Gatineau Olympiques, posting a career record of 460-293-18-59. He led his teams to league championships in 2003, 2004 and 2008, earning QMJHL Coach of the Year honors for the 2003-04 season while coaching the Olympiques.
The Hull, Quebec native also served on the coaching staffs for Team Canada at the 2004 U18 World Championships as well as the 2014 and 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships. Groulx was an assistant coach for the Gold Medal winning Team Canada at the U18 World Championships in 2004. Groulx was also an assistant coach for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2014 as Canada was defeated in the Bronze Medal game by Russia. The following year, Groulx was the head coach for Team Canada, winning the Gold Medal and earning a perfect 7-0 record during the tournament.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Matt Spencer to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Spencer, 19, skated in 60 games with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, recording five goals and 24 points to go along with 46 penalty minutes. He ranked third among all Petes defensemen for assists with 19 during the regular season. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound defenseman also appeared in seven OHL playoff games, posting one assist and 13 penalty minutes.
The Guelph, Ontario native has played in 191 career OHL games, all with Peterborough over the past three seasons, posting 12 goals and 69 points to go along with 143 penalty minutes.
Spencer was selected by the Lightning in the second round, 44th overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Mitchell Stephens to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Stephens, 19, skated in 39 games with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, collecting 20 goals and 38 points to go along with 14 penalty minutes. Stephens missed 29 games during the regular season but still ranked fifth on the Spirit for points and tied for fourth for goals. The Peterborough, Ontario, native also appeared in four games for Saginaw during the 2016 OHL Playoffs, posting two goals and three points.
The 6-foot, 193-pound forward has skated in 158 career OHL games, all with Saginaw over three seasons, recording 51 goals and 107 points. Stephens also suited up for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Jr. Championships this past season, notching a goal and two points in five tournament games.
Stephens was selected by the Lightning in the second round, 33rd overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Stephens is a young Callahan in effort and character, but can play both center and wing. He played center all year on Saginaw's top line and put up good numbers when healthy. He broke his foot early in the year and missed several weeks, but returned just in time to make Team Canada and perform well at the WJC's.
Stephens' hands are underrated and he's very poised with the puck. He's an excellent complimentary forward with some skill who will be a favorite of coaches throughout his career. He could have the same impact on the Lightning eventually as Ondrej Palat (or Callahan had with the Rangers earlier in his career).
The second rounder won't turn 20 until February, so while he can join Syracuse now, he has to go back to juniors next fall if he doesn't make the Lightning - which isn't expected. He will probably captain the Spirit next season and may wear a letter for Canada next Christmas.