BoltProspects confirmed today with the Tampa Bay Lightning that the Bolts have failed to sign prospect defenseman John Wessbecker before the deadline for signing NCAA graduated seniors expired. Wessbecker is now an unrestricted free agent and is able to sign with any team. The Victoria, MN native was a 7th round draft pick by Tampa in the 2005 NHL entry level draft and was a leader on the 2008-09 UMass hockey squad. The 6.02 and 198 lb. stay-at-home blueliner returned for his senior season after missing the last half of the 2007-08 due to injury, finishing his collegiate career with 2 goals and 10 assists in 123 games in 4 years for Don "Toot" Cahoon's Minutemen.
The passing over of Wessbecker seemed likely from clues earlier in the summer after Lightning GM Brian Lawton announced that Tampa would only carry around 40 contracts this upcoming season. Furthermore, the new Lightning management have succeeded in shoring up the Lightning blueline depth system-wide with a rash of acquisitions, free agent signing, and draft picks over the the past two off-seasons which made a Wessbecker contract even more unlikely.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to terms on a multi-year contract with Rick Wilson, naming him associate coach today, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced. He will be looked upon to coach and groom the teamâ€™s defensive corps.
â€œWith 20 years of NHL coaching experience, we believe Rick is exactly what this club needs as an associate coach and we are excited that he has elected to join our staff,â€ said Lawton upon making the announcement. â€œAs our team develops, we will look to control the game from the blue line; Rick shares that philosophy, understands that concept and will teach our young defensemen to do just that. Additionally, his past relationships ensure he will fit seamlessly with head coach Rick Tocchet, assistant Wes Walz and goaltending coach Cap Raeder to give us a very cohesive staff which can lead our team to long-term success.â€
The Tampa Bay Lightning are reporting via Twitter that the Bolts have resigned restricted free agent defenseman Matt Smaby to a one-way, two-year contract avoiding a scheduled salary arbitration hearing next week. The team reports the contract pays Smaby $500k the first year, and 550k the second year. After starting the 2008-09 season in Norfolk, Smaby was recalled to Tampa amidst a rash of blueline injuries, playing the final 43 games of the NHL season recording 4 assists and 50 penalty minutes. Smaby has played a total of 149 AHL games with the Norfolk Admirals and Springfield Falcons accumulating 5 goals and 13 assists along with 139 penalty minutes.
Smaby, 24, was a 2nd round pick by the Lightning in the 2003 NHL entry draft out of Shattucks-St. Mary's high school in Minnesota before playing three years for the University of North Dakota Fightning Sioux where he captained the team to an NCAA Championship Finals appearance against the University of Denver. He was signed by Tampa on April 14, 2006 to a three-year entry level contract.
Confirming a story that broke earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed prospect center Blair Jones and right wing Lauri Tukonen, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today.
Jones, whose 3 year entry-level contract expired at the end of last season, finished as the Norfolk Admiralsâ€™ second leading scorer last season and was the only player to appear in all 80 games. The Lightning acquired Tukonenâ€™s rights from the Dallas Stars last November in exchange for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson.
Jones, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Central Butte, Saskatchewan, set career highs with 20 goals, 34 assists and 54 points in 80 games for the Admirals last season. He ranked second in scoring, fourth in goals, second in assists and tied for second in power play goals (8) with Norfolk. He also established a new AHL Admirals franchise record with 271 shots on goal, ranking third in the American Hockey League. The 22 year old center has appeared in 155 games with the Admirals over the past two seasons, tallying 34 goals and 96 points. He ranks 12th all-time in AHL Admirals scoring and is just four points away from becoming the tenth player to record 100 points in his AHL Admirals career. Jones has appeared in 200 career AHL contests between Norfolk and the Springfield Falcons, recording 39 goals and 117 points. Jones was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the fourth round (102nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He has appeared in 24 career National Hockey League contests with the Lightning, recording one goal and three points.
Tukonen, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound native of Hyvinkaa, Finland, skated in 35 games in the Finnish Elite League last season. He scored five goals and 13 points in 21 games with Ilves Tampere while netting three goals and eight points in 14 games with Lukko Rauma. Originally drafted 11th overall by Los Angeles in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Tukonen, 22, has skated in five career games with the Kings (2006-07 and 2007-08). He has appeared in 185 career American Hockey League games with the Manchester Monarchs, tallying 36 goals, 103 points and 74 penalty minutes. Tukonen skated in three World Junior Championships for Finland from 2004-2006, collecting Bronze Medals in 2004 and 2006. In 2006, he finished third in tournament scoring with three goals and 10 points in seven games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Victor Hedman to a standard three-year rookie contract today, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced. Hedman was selected by the Lightning with the second overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the first time in franchise history Tampa Bay has picked second overall. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the contract has an annual salary of $900,000 (rookie max) with bonuses and incentives pushing the NHL cap hit of the contract to $3.75M annually. The NHL requires bonuses and incentives to count against the salary cap regardless of whether the team actually pays them out to the player.
"We are thrilled to be able to take this next step with Victor today,â€ said Lawton upon making the announcement. "He has a bright future and we intend on him being a member of the Lightning for a long time. We are excited to get his signing behind us so he can solely focus on hockey and the continued development of his game.â€
At yesterday's press conference introducing Hedman to the media prior to the start of the Lightning prospects camp, Hedman elected to wear jersey #77 in honor of famed NHL defenseman Ray Bourque.