Rolston: "I will be going to free agency"
Brian Rolston said in a text message this morning to the Minneapolis Star Tribune he has turned down the Lightning's offer to sign a contract and will test free agency beginning at noon.
"I will be going to free agency," Rolston said.
He also indicated that Tampa Bay was not out of the mix, but said he would not answer any more media calls.
The turn-down was the first disappointment for OK Hockey this free agent season. After a huge run of upbeat and successful moves -- signing Vinny Prospal, Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts, trading for puck-moving defenseman Janne Niskala -- Rolston turned down Tampa Bay, not, it is believed, because of financial issues, but because of lifestyle questions. He apparently wants to go to a hockey city with strong youth hockey roots, specifically for his son, Ryder, 6.
"He said we're not out of it," Lightning owner Len Barrie said. "We made a hell of an offer, we think, and we'll see what happens. We have one ore move to make, and if not we'll sit pat. We hit a home run with Malone and we tried to hit a grand slam with Rolston."
Rolston's agent, Stephen Bartlett said lifestyle issues were not at the heart of his client's decision, but the usual concerns of a 35-year-old who might be signing his final contract. Rolston's negotiating rights were acquired for a third-round pick in 2010.
"What it comes down to is for a player who is about to sign the most important contract of his career, it was a matter of seeing what all the options are out there," Bartlett said. "It's nothing anti-Tampa. Tampa is still on our short list."
"It's not done yet," coach Barry Melrose said of trying to bring Rolston in. "We're still in it. We're still working. If we get Rolston, great, but we have other contingencies."
One is Coyotes left wing Radim Vrbata, 27, who had 27 goals last season and is as good defensively as offensively.
"He can play the right side, which we need," said Melrose from his office at the St. Pete Times Forum. "He can play the second unit of the power play, which we need. And he's young. We're trying to bring in guys who are in the prime of their careers. ... People are pounding the phones, they're talking to each other. It's like a nerve center in here."