Goaltender Karri Ramo decides to play another season for Russia's Avangard Omsk
The Lightning will be without Karri Ramo for another season as the goaltender decided to remain with Avangard Omsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Ramo’s agent, Mark Gandler, said Friday that his client could have opted out of the second year of his two-year contract, but decided in early May to stay. Tampa Bay was between general managers at the time. Gandler declined comment when asked if that affected the process.
Ramo, 24, was 21-17-4 in 44 games for Omsk with a 2.11 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and four shutouts. Gandler said Ramo, who still is Lightning property, would like to return to Tampa Bay after his stint in Russia.
"If the stars align, we’ll get it done.” Gandler said.
The development would seem to throw an interesting twist into the Lightning's goaltending plans. If Ramo came back, it was assumed he would be in good position to challenge for the backup spot to whomever was No. 1, either Mike Smith or someone brought in through free agency or trade. Antero Niittymaki, an unrestricted free agent, was believed to probably want more money or years than Tampa Bay would be willing to spend.
But with Ramo out of the picture, it seems all options are open. Former general manager Brian Lawton said he was keen to sign big Russian Vasily Koshechkin, also Lightning property. Will new GM Steve Yzerman go that route? Koshechkin had a big year in the KHL and is said to want to come to North America. Is Niittymaki a more likely target, or are there other free agents out there?
Add it to the list of things to keep an eye on.