Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed big Swedish forward Niklas Persson to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday. For the undrafted 31 year-old late bloomer, the signing marks the realization of a childhood dream to have a shot to play in the NHL.
Persson played last season for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik in the KHL, and three seasons for Linkoping before his KHL tour. During that four year span, the 6'02", 205 lbs forward, tallied 59 goals and 84 assists in 219 games. Persson won bronze medals with Team Sweden in both the 2009 and 2010 World Championships along with the Elitserian SM silver medal in 2007 and 2008 with Linkoping.
Persson told Aftonbladet, "I go over to take a place in the NHL. That is where I want to play, absolutely. I have written a two-way contract, and there is certainly a way out if I need it, but I have no other thoughts than to play in the NHL. At worst, I may play in the AHL and show that I'll have a chance. I will not leave home without an honest attempt."
"It's a childhood dream come true."
TAMPA BAY, Fla. â€“ The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Mitch Fritz to a one-year, two-way contract, Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Fritz, a 6-foot-7, 242-pound forward from Osoyoos, British Columbia, appeared in 73 games with the Admirals last season, scoring two goals and six points with a team-leading 157 penalty minutes.
The Tampa Bay Lightning signed right wing Martin St. Louis to a four-year contract extension today, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced. The contract locks up St. Louis through the 2014-15 season.
â€œToday is a great day for the Lightning organization,â€ Yzerman said. â€œMarty means so much to this franchise, both on and off the ice. His hard work and dedication are unsurpassed and we are thrilled that he will finish his career here in Tampa Bay.â€
St. Louis, 5-foot-9, 177 pounds, is the Lightningâ€™s all-time leader in shorthanded goals with 28. He is also second on the franchise list for games played with 703, goals with 263, assists with 396, points with 659, power-play goals with 76 as well as game-winning goals with 47. St. Louis is also the franchise leader in playoff goals with 23, points with 48, overtime game-winners with three and plus/minus with a plus-18. He is tied for the Tampa Bay all-time playoff lead for games played with 45 and game-winning goals with seven.
"Since coming to Tampa in 2000, the goals for my playing career have evolved," said St. Louis. "I have now enjoyed many team and personal accolades, the highlight being our 2004 Stanley Cup win.
"Now the goal is to lead the Lightning back towards the top of the NHL while finishing my career here. My family and I would like to thank Steve and Mr. Vinik for giving us that opportunity. I will not let them or our fans in Tampa Bay down. We'll do everything we can as a team to achieve at the highest levels again."
The Tampa Bay Lightning have bought out the contract of left wing Todd Fedoruk, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced. Fedoruk had one year remaining on his contract.
â€œOn behalf of the entire Lightning organization, I would like to thank Todd for his service both on and off the ice,â€ Yzerman said. â€œAs the team heads in a different direction, we wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in his hockey career.â€
The Lightning have 10 forwards under contract for the 2010-11 season heading into Thursday's opening day of free agency: Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Dana Tyrell, Carter Ashton, James Wright, Adam Hall, Johan Harju, and Mitch Fadden.
Damian Crisdotero is reporting that Karri Ramo's agent, Mark Gandler, has announced his client will stay with Avangard Omsk of the KHL next season. Ramo is entering the second and final year of his deal with the Russian club. He was the starting goaltender for Team Jagr at the KHL All-Star Game last season.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has announced the team has sent qualifying offers to 10 restricted free agent prospects. Those prospects whose rights were retained by the Bolts include forwards Blair Jones, Juraj Simek, Martins Karsums, Nate Thompson, Paul Szczechura, Steve Downie, and Teddy Purcell, along with defensemen Mike Lundin, Paul Ranger, and Vladimir Mihalik.
For Simek, Szczechura, and Mihalik this represents their first qualifying offers as their entry level contracts have expired.
Rumors have been swirling all week that Montreal first round draft pick Louis Leblanc may have already decided to leave Harvard University after one season with the Crimson. Montreal writer Pat Hickey penned a story for the Montreal Gazette on Wednesday claiming the speedy forward might be weighing whether to go to the QMJHL or sign with the Canadiens and play in the AHL for Hamilton. Compounding the intrigue was that Leblanc, whose junior rights were held by Chicoutimi, apparently had a preference to play for the Montreal Juniors in the QMJHL so he could also attend classes at McGill University to continue his education.
Today, at the tail end of the QMJHL Midget Draft, Chicoutimi traded Leblanc's rights to the Montreal Juniors, along with a 3rd round pick, for Guillaume Asselin and a 2011 first round pick. That will only serve to intensify speculation that Leblanc may leave Harvard. If Leblanc leaves, he will add to a list of players not returning to the Crimson that already included graduating seniors Doug Rogers, Chad Morin, Alex Biega, Jack Christian, and Ian Tallett. While only Rogers, Morin, and Biega were serious contributors to Harvard last season, it's important to bear in mind the club has only won 9 games each of the past two seasons. Losing those players and their leading scorer, Leblanc, may be a death sentence for Ted Donato's club next season.
All that begs the question: what about Alex Killorn? Killorn, a 2007 3rd round pick of the Lightning, has been routinely singled out over the past couple of seasons as being one of the team's best young talents in prospect camps but has failed to garner much publicity playing for a sinking Harvard club. If Leblanc leaves, can the Lightning allow one of their ten best prospects to languish through another potential single-digits win season at Harvard? Would it be better for his development to sign Killorn and have him begin his pro career with Norfolk of the AHL? Expect new GM Steve Yzerman to seriously contemplate that option if Killorn impresses him as much at this summer's prospect camp as he has other Hockey Operations people with the Lightning in previous camps.
If Killorn were to be signed, he'd join fellow signees Johan Harju and Mark Barberio from an already strong class of incoming pros. The team could also still sign 2009 2nd round pick Richard Panik, who just completed his first World Championships appearance for Slovakia.
Hat tip to our Chad Schnarr, who has been following this situation closely on BoltProspects' Twitter feed.
According to a Twitter report from Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed prospect defenseman Mark Barberio to an entry level contract. Details of the contract are not yet know, but the Lightning had until Tuesday, June 1 to ink the blueliner or he would have been eligible to return to this summer's NHL entry draft. The Lightning are under the same deadline to sign prospect forward Kyle DeCoste or lose him to the draft as well. Both players were drafted in the 2008 NHL Entry draft -- a draft class that includes forwards Steven Stamkos and James Wright, and goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
Barberio led his Moncton Wildcats to a berth in the 2010 Memorial Cup tournament as the QMJHL champion. Barberio scored 17 goals and added 43 assists in 65 regular season games for the Wildcats.
Hockey Expressen is reporting that the agent of Lightning goaltending prospect Riku Helenius, Jay Grossman, has announced the Finnish born former first round pick will play for Sodertalje in the Swedish Elitserien again next season. Helenius joined Sodertalje late last season and backstopped the club to a first place finish in the Kval till Elitserien, the annual promotion/relegation tournament. The move may be a positive for Helenius' development, as he is expected to be Sodertalje's starter next year and the Lightning already have a glut of Norfolk-bound goaltenders with Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus in the fold. Having Helenius in Sodertalje allows the Lightning the luxury of having him develop with plenty of starts in a premiere European league. Helenius is entering the final year of his entry-level deal with the Lightning.
The website HockeyExpressen is reporting that the Lightning have signed Swedish forward Johan Harju to a one year contract, estimated to be worth approximately $700,000. Harju, a 2007 6th round pick, exercised an out-clause in his contract to leave Dynamo Moscow of the KHL last week at the conclusion of the club's playoff run. Harju scored 4 goals and 18 points in 55 games with Dynamo this year, which was his first in the KHL.
Prior to his stint in the KHL, Harju was known as one of the most prolific goal scorers in Sweden's top league, the Elitserien. Harju's career season came two years ago when he ranked among the league's leaders with 27 goals and 49 points in 55 games. Drafted as a winger, Harju played most of this season at center, and his versatility will help his chances of making the Lightning in the Fall. Standing at 6'3" and 205 lbs, the power forward has drawn comparisons to Detroit's Johan Franzen. He turns 24 on May 15th.
In related news, Harju's life-long teammate Linus Omark signed a 2-year deal to play with the Edmonton Oilers yesterday. Both players are currently training with Team Sweden for the upcoming World Championships in Germany.