Smolenak, Radek

Keller, McKenna Not Qualified

According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times, the Tampa Bay Lightning have chosen not to qualify restricted free agents forward Justin Keller and goaltender Mike McKenna.

Players receiving qualifying offers were defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin; forwards Martins Karsums, Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak and Lauri Tukonen; and goaltender Karri Ramo. Both Smolenak and Ramo have signed contracts to play in the KHL next season.

Smolenak Speaks About Jump to Europe

Lightning forward prospect Radek Smolenak discusses his decision to jump to the KHL next season instead of resigning with the Lightning organization in a story on the Czech hockey site hoke.cz

Loosely translated, Smolenak admitted his decision to accept an offer from the Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL "...was not easy decision. If I felt the chance that I will be in the first team and spend the entire season in the NHL, I would definitely stay. But more than to stay on the farm, I prefer to give priority to Russia. I had offers from other leagues, but the Continental League attracted me a lot..."

Smolenak declined to comment on the Lightning's embarrassing finish to the 2008-09 indicating that he only played a few games with Tampa and that was a question better suited for the executives and owners. Smolenak did suggest, "The fact is that the change was really a lot, maybe it could even wait a little." He did, however, address the question that many followers of Bolt prospects are wondering -- will he consider returning to North America? To that question, Radek indicated that he will play a season in the KHL to satisfy his curiosity and give the league a try, but that he certainly would like to return overseas.

Smolenak Jumps to KHL

According to a story released today on the team's official website, the Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL have signed Lightning left wing prospect Radek Smolenak to a contract for next season. Smolenak's three-year entry level contract with the Lightning expired at the end of this season, although Tampa could retain his NHL rights as restricted free agent by tendering a qualifying offer.

Smolenak seemed poised to push for a roster position next season with the Lightning next season after having a breakout season with Tampa's AHL minor league affiliate the Norfolk Admirals. Smolenak posted career highs in nearly every statistical category by posting 24 goals and 25 assists in 71 AHL games while amassing 165 penalty minutes. Smolenak recorded 1 assist in 6 games with the Lightning during a brief mid-season recall.

There is no word regarding the length of the contract Smolenak signed with the Petrochemists or whether the contract contains an "NHL out", and there is no word yet whether Tampa intends to retain his rights by tendering a qualifying offer to the tough left winger. Hat tip to the members of the BoltProspects message board for the heads-up on this story.

AHL Game Night 4/10: Admirals at Senators

Unbelievably awesome.

NOR-6
BNG-1

Craig Kowalski allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.

First Period
NOR Keller, (17) , 5:51
NOR Segal, (24) (Jones), 7:47 (PP)
NOR Segal, (25) , 12:25

Second Period
NOR Segal, (26) , 3:22 (SH)
NOR Graddock, (1) (Zingoni), 5:23
NOR Keller, (18) (Lundin), 9:50
BNG Smith, (7) (Hennessy, Bois), 11:07 (SH)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Brandon Segal, Justin Keller, and Kowalski were named the game's three stars.

On paper, the Admirals had no business even being competitive in this game. Norfolk had nothing to play for other than pride and the possibility to climb out of the division basement. At the other end of the rink, Binghamton came into this game tied with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the division and desperate for points. Norfolk's bottom lines and bottom pairings were riddled with ATO's due to call-ups and injuries. This should have been a cake walk for Binghamton, but just like their last game out against the Penguins, the core of this Admirals team absolutely refuses to lay down.

In my mind, over the past two years Darren Rumble has developed into a hell of a coach. He got several of these young players like Radek Smolenak to start believing in themselves down the stretch of last season, and this season he's instilled a sense of pride in a minor league system that hasn't had any since they were the Atlanta Knights of the IHL.

I think the team tonight also took the guess work out of who you keep and who you let go. All of the top-six forwards and top-four d-men from this game need to be retained, which means Geoff Kinrade needs a contract. With the further development of this clubs young players and the introduction of some new talent like Dana Tyrell, next season is one where the Admirals should legitimately be a playoff team.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night 4/8: Admirals at Penguins

Still no quit in the Admirals.

NOR-4
WBS-3

Riku Helenius allowed 3 goals on 37 shots in the victory.

First Period
NOR Segal, (23) (Zingoni), 11:47
NOR Zingoni, (7) (Kinrade, Keller), 18:07 (PP)

Second Period
WBS Satan, (3) (Taffe, Goligoski), 1:18 (PP)
NOR Simek, (9) (Keller, Boyle), 9:16 (PP)

Third Period
WBS Pesonen, (30) (Johnson, Goligoski), 7:22 (PP)
WBS Taffe, (25) (Goligoski, Pesonen), 13:00 (PP)

Overtime
NOR Smolenak, (23) (Keller), 3:52

Radek Smolenak and Pete Zingoni were named the game's first and third stars.

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune speculates on his blog that scratches Ty Wishart and Kevin Quick have been called to Tampa for tomorrow night's game against the Washington Capitals. In their absence, the Admirals dressed eight tryout players for the contest and still managed to pull out their 31st win of the season to stay even with Albany at 71 points.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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