Lightning signs two depth defensemen
Looking to add depth on defense, the Lightning signed defensemen Jay Leach and David Schneider to one-year, two-way contracts.
Both wil be invited to camp. Of the two, Leach, the captain last season for AHL Priovidence, probably has the best chance to crack the Tampa Bay roster, perhaps as a No. 7, and GM Jay Feaster said he will get that chance. Schneider seems already bound for AHL Norfolk.
Leach, 6-foot-5, 219 pounds, played 73 games with the Providence Bruins last season. He netted two goals and recorded seven assists while leading the team with 128 penalty minutes. Leach, 27, finished the season with a plus-1 rating and scored one power-play goal. He played in 13 Calder Cup Playoff games and recorded four points and 13 penalty minutes.
Schneider, a 5-9, 190-pound native of Melrose Park, Illinois, spent the 2006-07 season with HPK Hameenlinna in the Finnish Elite League. He played in 53 games with HPK and scored eight goals with 25 points and a plus-12 rating. The 27-year-old also played in nine postseason games with three goals and five points.
"Jay Leach is a big, experienced defenseman with great size and strength,” Feaster said. “He has a very good, hard shot and can play the point on the power play. He is an honest, hard-working player who competes every shift, and at the AHL level he is a real leader. We have a lot of young defensive prospects in the minors and we sorely lack a veteran leader to help mentor them. Jay will be given every opportunity to make our team; however, we are confident that either way we have again improved the depth in our organization.''
Of Schneider, Feaster said, "Our chief scout in Europe, Kari Kettunen, has been watching (him) play for the past four seasons now and reporting on him to us for at least the past two. He is confident that given Schneider's mobility, vision and puck skills he will upgrade our blue line at the AHL level and provide us with much needed organizational depth. While he will be given a chance to make the NHL team out of camp, we believe he brings an offensive component to our organizational depth chart that has been lacking in recent years. We are excited that he has chosen to return to play in North America with our organization.
“One of our stated goals heading into this free agency period was to add organizational depth, at the same time securing some experience and talent for the Norfolk Admirals. The additions of Jay, David, Craig MacDonald and Mathieu Darche on two-way contracts creates more options for the Lightning while ensuring our minor league system will have more of the talent and leadership necessary to be successful.“
A native of Syracuse, New York, Leach has played in 241 career AHL games with Springfield, Providence and Bridgeport. He has scored 11 career goals and recorded 33 points. His best AHL season offensively came in 2005-06 when he set career highs for goals with five, assists with 11 and points with 16 while playing for the P-Bruins. He also made his NHL debut with Boston in 2005-06, playing two games and recording a plus-1 rating with seven penalty minutes. He has played in 43 Calder Cup Playoff games and recorded six points.
Leach has also skated in 180 ECHL games with Mississippi, Augusta, Long Beach and Trenton. Recording 13 goals and 38 assists. His only ECHL playoff appearance was in 2002 when he played 10 games with Mississippi and scored one goal with one assist. He played his college hockey at Providence College where he skated in 142 games and scored six goals while recording 52 points. He helped the Friars reach the NCAA tournament as a senior in 2001.
Leach was selected by Phoenix in the fifth-round, 115th overall, at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed as a free agent by Boston on August, 23, 2005.
Schneider spent the previous five seasons in Finland with HPK, TPS Turku and Lukko Rauma. He played in 193 games in Finland and scored 26 goals while recording 75 points and a plus-38 rating. Before going to Europe he played in 28 games with Trenton of the ECHL, scoring five goals with 17 points from 2001-03. He played collegiate hockey at Princeton where he amassed 18 goals and 50 points in 98 games from 1988-89 to 2001-02.