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Could Costello's roller-coaster end in Tampa Bay?

For forward prospect Jeff Costello, his whirlwind year almost plays out like an answer to a trivia question.

Costello, 23, has been a member of three different NHL organizations in this past year without having signed his first pro contract, nor played his first pro game.

"I've never seen anything like it," agent Daniel Plante said.

"It's been crazy," Costello said.

But Costello's roller-coaster ride could end up with the Lightning, which acquired his rights from Vancouver in June along with defenseman Jason Garrison. Costello, who just finished his four-year career at Notre Dame, thought he was going to sign with the Senators, the team that drafted him in the fifth round 2009. But Ottawa traded him to Vancouver in March, then his rights were shipped to Tampa Bay this summer.

Costello participated in the Lightning's development camp in July, and made a strong impression on the coaching staff, with his team winning the 3-on-3 tournament. While Tampa Bay liked what it saw in the gritty, but skilled, left wing, it didn't offer Costello a contract before the Aug. 15 window expired; the Lightning has just one available contract left. …

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Video: Jeff Vinik accepts ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik today accepted an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from Hillsborough County Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia, then issued his own challenge. Watch the video to see who's up next.

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NHL makes changes to draft lottery system

The National Hockey League announced changes to its draft lottery system Wednesday, hoping to reflect the overall state of competitive balance.

It results in a more evenly-balanced allocation of odds, with the 10 highest finishing non-playoff qualifying teams receiving higher (or better) odds than they had previously, and the four lowest-finishing teams getting lower (worse) odds. These set of odds will remain in effect year-to-year in the future.

It makes it more difficult for the worst team in the league to get the No. 1 overalll pick, with their chances going from 25-percent to 20-percent.

Here's how the odds shake out. …

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Ryan Malone pleads no contest to DUI, agrees to diversion program on drug charge

TAMPA – Former Lightning wing Ryan Malone pleaded no contest to DUI charges and agreed to a pretrial diversion program on a drug charge in a court hearing Tuesday morning.

By accepting the pretrial intervention, his felony charge of cocaine possession will be dismissed if he successfully completes the program’s requirements – which are similar to those already outlined by the NHL.

As part of his DUI punishment, Malone will have his driver’s license suspended for six months and must complete 50 hours of community service.

Malone was arrested in April after striking a curb while driving. He initially refused a field sobriety test, but later tests showed his blood alcohol level at 0.112, which is above the legal limit of 0.08.

The arresting officer also found 1.3 grams of cocaine in Malone’s pocket; he said he was baffled by the discovery, according to court documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month.

His attorney, Wes Trumbley, politely declined to comment after the hearing.

Malone, 34, is an unrestricted free agent and was bought out by the Lightning in June. Several teams have expressed interest in the 10-year veteran, who had 15 points in 57 games last year.

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Malone told police he didn't know where cocaine came from

When a Tampa police officer pulled out a zip-lock bag of cocaine out of Ryan Malone's back pocket during an April 11 DUI arrest, the former Lightning wing was stunned.

"Oh my God," he told officer Andrew Visser.

Malone, 34, waived his Miranda rights and told Visser he didn't know where the 1.3 grams of cocaine came from, according to discovery documents the Tampa Bay Times received Tuesday through a public records request.

Malone told Visser he didn't believe the officer planted the drugs on him, but was "baffled" because he was wearing the same jeans for three days.

"I asked where it came from," Visser wrote in his report. "And he said he was just shocked."

Malone, who is facing charges of DUI and cocaine possession, could work out a plea deal as early as his next court date Aug. 19.  Malone, riding with a female friend and his brother, was pulled over after he struck a curb on W Platt Street. Malone initially refused a field sobriety test but submitted to a blood alcohol test at booking (.112 and .116); a blood alcohol level of .08 percent is the threshold at which Florida law presumes someone is unable to safely drive. …

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Drouin, Vasilevskiy rated No. 1 prospects

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, left, and forward Jonathan Drouin, right, are ranked the No. 1 prospects in the NHL at their respective positions by ESPN.com's Corey Pronman.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, left, and forward Jonathan Drouin, right, are ranked the No. 1 prospects in the NHL at their respective positions by ESPN.com's Corey Pronman.

Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy are expected to play a big role in the team's future.

And on Tuesday, both were ranked the No. 1 prospects in the NHL at their respective positions by ESPN.com's Corey Pronman.

Drouin, drafted third overall in 2013, was rated the top skater for the second consecutive season by Pronman. He'll likely get his first opportunity to impact Tampa Bay this season, and should be on the Calder Trophy watch list.

Vasilevskiy was rated the No. 1 goalie prospect in the NHL, and Pronman called him "one of the best goalie prospects of the past 20 years." …

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Lightning preseason tickets on sale

With training camp nearly a month away, the Tampa Bay Lightning has put tickets for its three preseason home games on sale.

Starting at 10 a.m. today (Tuesday), fans can go to tampabaylightning.com, Ticketmaster, or call 1-800-745-3000. The Lightning will host Nashville Tues, Sept. 23, Dallas on Fri, Sept 26 and the Panthers on Sat. Oct 4.

Tickets for regular season home games are expected to go on sale closer to training camp, which begins Sept. 18.

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Bishop faces shots for first time since surgery

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop faced shots last week for the first time since late April right wrist surgery, and it went well, according to general manager Steve Yzerman.

"It felt good. Monday, Tuesday and today (Wednesday)," Bishop told Fox Sports Florida's Paul Kennedy. "I was a little apprehensive, and the wrist isn't 100 percent yet. But there was no real pain. The training staff, the coaches and I wanted to see how it was coming along. I would say I have to get about the last 10 percent healthy."

Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist who signed a two-year, $11.9 million extension Aug. 2, worked out in Tampa for a few days. His season ended in early April after dislocating his left elbow, which he now says is "99-percent."

The goal, or plan, is for Bishop to be ready for training camp in mid-September.

"I'm not going to say I will be, but I'm pretty confident I'll be able," Bishop said after signing his extension..."We still have quite a bit of time before camp starts. I'm not too worried about it. The wrist still has got a little bit of ways to go. You never know, have to take your time."

 

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Malone's court case expected to be finalized in coming weeks

Ryan Malone stretches before a Lightning-Wild game in February in St. Paul, Minn.

Associated Press

Ryan Malone stretches before a Lightning-Wild game in February in St. Paul, Minn.

Former Lightning wing Ryan Malone, facing charges of DUI and cocaine possession, had another disposition hearing continued on Monday in Tampa.

It appears both sides might be working out a plea deal, with a resolution in the case likely to come on the next court date, Aug. 19, or soon after. Malone, 34, who did not appear in court, is an unrestricted free agent after getting bought out by the Lightning June 25. With training camps coming up in mid-September, it'd be beneficial for Malone to have this legal issue out of the way if he hopes to land with another team. …

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Lightning one of many teams using advanced stats

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the organization had been using advanced stats for a couple years before he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2010.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the organization had been using advanced stats for a couple years before he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2010.

It's not exactly Moneyball - or, more appropriately, Moneypuck - but there has been a lot of buzz this summer about the NHL's use of advanced stats.

Sports like baseball have been more at the forefront when it comes to using analytics, and it's easier to track such numbers because of the pace of the game. But you're starting to see more NHL teams trying to find what stats they can use to give them an advantage.

The Oilers recently hired Tyler Dellow, one of those at the forefront of the advanced stats movement (@mc79hockey). The Devils brought in professional poker player Sunny Mehta to head the team's analytics department. Even the Maple Leafs, who have been slow to such innovative methods, hired Kyle Dubas, 28, known for using analytics, to be their assistant general manager. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and Stars GM Jim Nill have been more outspoken this summer on their use of stats and what edge it might give. …

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Lightning sign Bishop to two-year extension

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop says anyone would love a long-term deal, especially coming off a season in which he was a Vezina Trophy finalist as the league's top goalie.

But Bishop, 27, was more than happy to receive a two-year, $11.9 extension Saturday, which with a no-trade clause will keep him in Tampa Bay through the 2016-17 season. Bishop, in his first full season as a No. 1 goalie, went 37-14-7 with a 2.23 goals against average, with coach Jon Cooper saying he was the main reason the Lightning made its turnaround and reached the playoffs.

"I had one really good year this year - I think I've still got to prove myself," Bishop said. "I want to be consistent year in and year out. I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. I want to be even better this year. I thought it was a fair deal on both sides."

Bishop, who had one year and $2.3 million left on his current deal, said it was important to get an agreement done this summer so it's not "hanging over my head" during the season. The security is key, especially considering Bishop is coming off right wrist surgery and his season ended in April with a disclocated left elbow. …

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Stamkos deflects speculation of signing with Maple Leafs in future

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, 24, a Markham, Ontario native, will not be an unrestricted free agent until after the 2015-16 season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, 24, a Markham, Ontario native, will not be an unrestricted free agent until after the 2015-16 season.

With LeBron James making the blockbuster decision this month to return home to Cleveland, it sparked continued speculation whether one the biggest NHL stars will make a similar move to play for his hometown team.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, 24, a Markham, Ontario native, will not be an unrestricted free agent until after the 2015-16 season. But Stamkos, at a Coca-Cola ball-hockey promotional event in Toronto Wednesday, was asked whether there would be an allure to signing with the Maple Leafs, the team he grew up watching.

“We’ll see what happens. It’s a couple years away,” Stamkos told The Canadian Press. “Right now I’m focused on what I have to do to win in Tampa, and I think we’ve really established ourselves as a team that can compete in upcoming years.

“For me, that’s the important thing is getting a chance to win. It looks like we’re going to have that chance for a couple years.” …

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Lightning signs Brenden Morrow

The Lightning landed the veteran presence it had been looking for Friday, announcing the signing of veteran forward Brenden Morrow to a one-year deal.

The 35-year-old Morrow is a former Stars captain. He had 13 goals and 25 points for St. Louis last year.

The team also announced the signing of forward Philippe Paradis to a one-year, two-way contract.

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Feaster thrilled to be back with Lightning, "hurt" by St. Louis trade

Jay Feaster was proudly wearing his Lightning 2004 Stanley Cup ring Tuesday morning, back in an office at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and admittedly bleeding blue again.

"I don't know that I've ever stopped," he said.

Feaster, 51, the former long-time Tampa Bay general manager, was hired to be the executive director of community hockey development, with the job to help grow hockey at the youth/grassroots level. Though Feaster was fired by the Lightning in 2008, most recently working as Calgary's GM until his December departure, he kept his Brandon home.

Feaster, who was with the Lightning for 10 years, said he always considered the area "home." He made it known he'd like to return to the organization, though not necessarily in hockey operations, and discussions were rekindled when he was in Tampa in March for the 10th anniversary Stanley Cup celebration.

"It's awesome," Feaster said. "The previous ownership group that (Jeff Vinik) bought it from, they did everything they could to try to purge any evidence and record and memory of the 04 Cup win. So it's nice to be welcomed back like this."

 …

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Stralman says Lightning "close to complete"

Anton Stralman signed a five-year $22.5 million deal with the Lightning July 1.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Anton Stralman signed a five-year $22.5 million deal with the Lightning July 1.

New Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman is a huge heavy metal music fan, and can string a few tunes himself.

Stralman, 27, said when he and his wife Johanna moved in together in 2005, he had to give up video games, so he decided to buy a guitar for his 19th birthday. He’s no Slash, but can play Guns N Roses “Patience” pretty well.

“I wish I was good, like to think I’m good,” Stralman said, smiling. “But it’s just not happening.”

Fortunately for Stralman, he can stick to his day job, which recently got a lot more security. The former Ranger signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Tampa Bay on July 1, with the father of four making a brief trip to Tampa this week to house-hunt and research schools.

While Stralman doesn’t know the bay area very well, he’s well-versed in his new employer.

“This team really excites me,” Stralman said. “I think this team is very promising. When you’re making your choice, you want to see progress in a team in a positive way, and I think this team has all those good areas.

“I think this team is close to complete. Honestly the forwards, tremendous firepower there, best scorer in the league (Steven Stamkos), can’t ask for more really.” …

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