The Swedish paper Norrbottens Kuriren is reporting that several teams in the Russian KHL are courting Lightning prospect Johan Harju and his teammate, Edmonton prospect Linus Omark. The Lightning reportedly had the inside track on signing Harju, who at 22 years of age was the second leading goal scorer in the Swedish Elitserien for Lulea, earlier in the season. However, the entrance of the Russian league into the equation complicates matters. NHL rookie contracts are capped at around $900,000, while wealthy Russian owners flush with cash are willing to spend lavishly on young stars like Harju, putting the Lightning at a disadvantage in a potential bidding war. The question is: will Harju choose the better lifestyle and top flight competition of the NHL, or will he choose to chase the big bucks behind the former iron curtain?
Harju is quoted in the report as saying, "The NHL is the dream and that is what I am aiming for." However, he didn't close the door completely, stating, "The way of life is a bit special in Russia, but it would also be an adventure in its own way."
More on this story as it develops...
The Swedish newspaper the Norlandska Socialdemokraten is reporting (link in Swedish) that the Lightning have signaled their intention to sign Swedish sniper Johan Harju at the end of this season. Lulea GM Lars Bergstrom is quoted in the paper as being resigned to the fact that Harju and his teammate, Edmonton prospect Linus Omark, will be headed to North America next season. Harju, who was drafted by the Lightning in the 6th round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has played much of this season at second line center for Lulea, but can also play left wing. The 22 year old, 6'3" 205 lbs forward is currently tied for 12th in the Elitserien in scoring with 20 goals and 34 points in 44 games. Those 20 goals are tied for 4th best in the league and his 9 power play goals are tied for 3rd best.
Hat tip to Sotnos from the message boards.
Responding to the sudden loss of over half of their defensive corps due to injuries or callups, the Norfolk Admirals have announced the signing of defenseman Mitch Ganzak to a PTO contract. The 6'0" 205 lbs blueliner has spent the balance of this season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers, where he has scored 4 goals and 22 points in 29 games. Prior to this season, Ganzak was the recipient of a 2 game tryout with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, in which he tallied 1 assist, after 4 years spent with Miami of the CCHA.
Tokarski, selected by the Lightning in the 5th round (122nd overall) of the 2008 draft, is currently playing for Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships.
The 19-year-old is midway through his third season with Spokane of the Western Hockey League where he has posted a record of 16-9-2 with four shutouts and a 1.97 goals-against average.
According to a Boston University fan blog, Justin Courtnall of the BCHL's Victoria Grizzlies has pledged his services to NCAA hockey power Boston University. The Terriers are currently ranked No.3 in the latest USCHO men's Division I hockey poll.
Courtnall currently leads the Grizzlies in scoring with 12 goals, 30 assists and 42 points in 37 games.
He joins defenseman Luke Witkowski (Fargo, USHL - Western Michigan Univ.) as North American junior prospects of the Lightning with verbal commitments to NCAA programs.
A verbal commitment is not binding. Commitments can be made official when a player has signed his letter of intent.
(WHL release) The Prince George Cougars are proud to announce and wish to congratulate team captain Dana Tyrell, who has agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League. The Lightning selected Tyrell in the second round, 47th overall, in the 2007 NHL draft.
Prince George Cougars General Manager Dallas Thompson says; "Dana is very deserving for achieving this goal of his. All the effort and hard work he has put into his game and the commitment to the Prince George Cougars has certainly helped Dana achieve this terrific milestone in his life.â€
Tyrell leads the Cougars in scoring in his fourth full WHL season, with 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points, and is ranked tied for 13th in league scoring. Tyrell leads the Cougars in power-play goals with 7 and short handed tallies with 3. Tyrell will also attend the National Junior Team selection camp in Ottawa, ON, December 11-15, in hopes of wearing Canadaâ€™s colors at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in the nationâ€™s capital, beginning December 26.
Erik Erlendsson is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have fired Barry Melrose and named Rick Tocchet Interim Head Coach.
And with that, the Lightning are now officially spending more on ex-Head Coaches this season than they are on veteran blueliners. The new ownership is learning some hard lessons. There's not much else you can say.
From TSN, "This was a tough decision to make," Executive Vice President & General Manager Brian Lawton said. "Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them."
"As for Rick Tocchet, we think this is a great opportunity for him and we believe he's the type of coach who can take the team to the next level. Our players have a great deal of respect for him."
Norfolk Admirals GM Mike Butters announced today that the team has released defenseman Jeff May from his Amateur Tryout Contract. May was a teammate of Lightning forward prospect Mitch Fadden for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League last season. He was an invitee to the Tampa Prospects Camp this summer in Victoria, BC and his performance at that camp subsequently earned him a roster spot on the Lightning's Traverse City Prospects tournament squad. His poised play on the blueline during that tourney led to an invitation to the Norfolk Admirals training camp and an Amateur Tryout Contract.
Originally a 2005 5th round pick by the Detroit Red Wings, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman played 3 games for Norfolk and was scoreless. The recent arrival of veteran defenseman Jamie Heward from Tampa further complicated an already overstaffed Norfolk blueline, leading to some personnel decisions. May's release comes on the heels of the reassignment of forwards Brady Leavold and Justin Keller to their respective ECHL teams as the Admirals completed the process of paring down their roster to 23 players, including
Forwards (13) : Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak, Bracken Kearns, Paul Szczechura, Paul Zingoni, Juraj Simek, Chris Lawrence, Wyatt Smith, Brandon Segal, Brandon Bochenski, Jay Rosehill, Brent Henley, and Zenon Konopka.
On the same day that Norfolk Admirals GM Mike Butters announced that Lightning forward prospect Mitch Fadden would be returned to his Lethbridge junior team, Butters announced that defenseman Jeff May has been signed to an Amateur Tryout contract. May, a teammate of Fadden at Lethbridge, completed his final junior campaign last spring as a free agent. May, a 2005 5th round selection of the Detroit Red Wings, was unable to come to contractual terms with the club and was a free agent invitee to Tampa's Traverse City prospects camp. His play on the TC blueline earned him an invitation to Norfolk's training camp.
"Jeff May had a good training camp," said Butters. "He is a good puck mover and has great aptitude for the game. We look forward to seeing him develop into a potential NHL prospect."
May, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman from Richmond, British Columbia, will be making his professional debut. Last season, May ranked fifth in assists and twelfth in scoring among WHL defenseman. In 54 games between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders, May netted four goals and 40 assists.
The Fargo Force have announced they have selected Tampa's 2008 6th round pick Luke Witkowski to join the roster of the USHL's newest team for the 2008-09 season. The 6'2", 200 lbs. defenseman has signed a letter of intent with Western Michigan University of the CCHA having deferred enrollment until the 2009-10 season. Witkowski became a free agent in May after the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL ceased operations for the 2008-09 season after just two years.
Witkowski, a big blueliner known for his skating agility and speed, will be coached in Fargo by former University of North Dakota head coach Dean Blais who led the Fighting Sioux to two NCAA national championships over the course of a decade at the helm. Blais, known for his up-tempo offensive style, seems to be a good fit for Witkowski's offensive potential. Blais also coached Bolt prospect Matt Smaby and recent Lightning signee Brandon Bochenski during his tenure at UND.