Mike McKenna: I'll always be grateful to the Lightning
Mike McKenna said the Lightning handed him a conditioning guide at the start of the summer, and was making sure he was going to be in the best shape possible when he was informed the team would not offer him a qualifier to retain his negotiating rights.
Just like that, McKenna went from a restricted to, as of Wednesday, an unrestricted free agent.
Still, he said, "I can't say I'm terribly surprised."
Even though Karri Ramo signed with Avangard Omsk of the Russian KHL, the Lightning still has Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski under contract and likely will try to find a backup to Mike Smith through free agency.
"It is disappointing, though," McKenna continued. "You'd like to be able to stay with the team that you broke in with and gave you your first chance."
McKenna was signed as a free agent on Feb. 3 and did an admirable job helping to hold things together in net for Tampa Bay after Mike Smith was injured. He was 4-8-0 and had a shutout in his first NHL season. For the chance, McKenna said he always will have a soft spot in his heart for Tampa Bay.
"No question, the best moment in my whole career is in a Lightning jersey," he said. "I was very fortunate I was in an organization that gave me a chance. I'll always be grateful for that."
McKenna was one of the more eclectic characters you will come across with myriad interests, including thrash metal. He said he has seen two such concerts this offseason, and will catch Slayer later in the summer.
We wish him well.