Lightning wing Radek Smolenak on his Russia experience: "I hated it there"
As expected, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed power forward Radek Smolenak to a one-year, two-way contract. What really was interesting today was listening to Smolenak describe his short relationship with Nizhnekamsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
Smolenak, 22, signed there in May after his entry-level contract expired with Tampa Bay. Asked what happened to cause his contract there to be terminated, Smolenak said, "I hated it there." And while he called the entire experience "a great one," he added, "I'm happy I'm not there anymore."
Asked what the problem was, Smolenak said, "The city wasn't like New York City. It was pretty painful."
Smolenak, from Prague, said his plan was to play a year in Russia and then come back to the Lightning, which would still have held his North American rights. Smolenak said each Russian league team can have five imports. When he heard his team, which was at the limit, wanted to add another, he volunteered to leave, and he said worked with the team to get released from his contract.
Proof of the released had to be obtained by the Lightning before Smolenak signed.
Smolenak, drafted 74th overall in 2004, had an assist and 10 penalty minutes last season in six games for the Lightning. He had 24 goals, 49 points and 165 penalty minutes in 71 games for AHL Norfolk.
"I wanted to go for a year and get better as a player, get stronger," Smolenak said of going to Russia. "I didn't work out. I'm glad to be here."