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Russian draft prospect Valeri Nichushkin 'serious' about playing in the NHL, his agent says

Valeri Nichushkin, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right wing with high-end skill will merit serious consideration from the Lightning.

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Valeri Nichushkin, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right wing with high-end skill will merit serious consideration from the Lightning.

The agent for Russian draft prospect Valeri Nichushkin said his client is serious about playing in North America, and NHL teams should not wonder about his commitment to the league.

"This is not a charade," Mark Gandler said. "This is serious business."

Gandler confirmed his client's two-year contract with Moscow Dynamo of Europe's Kontinental Hockey League has been terminated. But Gandler also said Dynamo allowed the move with the condition that if Nichushkin does not make an NHL roster next season he can be assigned back to Dynamo. The NHL team would have the ability to call the player back.

"They just want to make sure that if he doesn't make it in the NHL this year he comes back and plays for Dynamo," Gandler said. "If both sides agree to it, (the contract) will say something like, 'At any point during the 2013-14 season, if the player is not on an NHL roster, he, upon written notice, will be assigned to the team of his choice in Europe.' " …

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Draft prospect Valeri Nichushkin says he is coming to America

Russia's Valeri Nichushkin, right, and Pavel Buchnevich celebrate after scoring against Germany during a quarterfinal game of the IIHF U18 International Ice Hockey World Championship.

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Russia's Valeri Nichushkin, right, and Pavel Buchnevich celebrate after scoring against Germany during a quarterfinal game of the IIHF U18 International Ice Hockey World Championship.

One of the more interesting developments of the Memorial Day weekend was a story on the rsport.ru web site that quoted Valeri Nichushkin as saying he is ready to play in North America.

That likely was of great significance to the Lightning, which it is believed to have a keen interest in perhaps drafting the talented 18-year-old Russian with the No. 3 overall pick of the June 30 draft. In fact, Nichishkin told the web site Tampa Bay and the Predators, with the No. 4 overall pick, have shown interest.

One stumbling block was the two-year contract Nichushkin has/had with Moscow Dynamo which traded for the right wing last season in a deal that included a reported $10 million. But Nichushkin told rsport the deal wasn't that rich, the contract has been terminated -- no details were given -- and that Dynamo is okay with his decision. …

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Lightning assistant Lacroix will not return next season

Dan Lacroix's contract will expire at the end of June.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Dan Lacroix's contract will expire at the end of June.

The Lightning on Friday began what might be an extensive reworking of its coaching staff by not retaining assistant Dan Lacroix. …

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Lightning's enthusiasm for goaltending prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy keeps growing

The Lightning, it is believed, has a potential goaltending star in Andrey Vasilevskiy. And head amateur scout Al Murray did nothing to change anyone's mind in a recent discussion about the 18-year-old Russian.

"This guy is a terrific prospects," Murray said of Vasilevskiy, who was drafted 19th overall in 2012. "I haven't seen a goalie in my time scouting in 20 years as developed at this stage of his development as this guy is.

"That doesn't mean he's going to eclipse Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur," Murray continued. "But at this stage of his development, at his age, I haven't seen a goalie as good as this guy."

Vasilevskiy had a terrific 2012-13.

In 27 games with Ufa's junior team in Russia, he had a 1.93 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. In eight games with Ufa's team in Europe's Kontinental Hockey League, he was 4-1-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. And at the 2013 world junior championship, Vasilevskiy helped Russia to a bronze medal with a 1.81 goals-against average and .950 save percentage in four games. …

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Winning bronze at the world championship was 'awesome,' Lightning's Nate Thompson says

Lightning center Nate Thompson collides with Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais during a game in March.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning center Nate Thompson collides with Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais during a game in March.

Lightning center Nate Thompson called winning a bronze medal with the United States at the world championship "a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget."

Thompson, 28, had a goal, three points and was plus-1 in 10 games at the tournament in Sweden and Finland. He was an alternate captain and played with Tampa Bay teammates Matt Carle (also an alternate captain) and Ben Bishop.

It was Thompson's second world championship and first medal.

"It was awesome," Thompson said of earning the bronze. "With the group of guys we had an how young we were, I don't think anyone would have picked us to do that. We had a pretty resilient group. The way we won it, definitely a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget."

The United States took the bronze with a 3-2 win over Finland in what was, basically, a consolation game. The United States lost the chance to play for gold when it fell 3-0 to Switzerland, which then lost to Sweden in the gold-medal game.

The signature game for Thompson, though, was the 8-3 victory over Russia in the first round of medal play, a nice payback after Russia's 5-3 victory over the United States in the preliminary round. …

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Lecavalier's lament: 'I thought we were going to have a great year'

Vinny Lecavalier's season was not bad, with 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games while averaging 17:52 of ice time.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Vinny Lecavalier's season was not bad, with 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games while averaging 17:52 of ice time.

Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier was off to one of his best starts in a while (four goals, 11 points in his first seven games) when his left foot was hit by a slap shot from teammate Sami Salo in the final second of a Feb. 2 game with the Rangers.

Lecavalier played through the injury, which never really healed and limited his mobility. And when on March 12 he skated into Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson, the bone that had been bruised by Salo's shot was fractured, knocking Lecavalier out of nine games.

Lecavalier's season was not bad with 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games while averaging 17:52 of ice time. He also won 54.4 percent of his faceoffs. But the center said the season "was tough," especially considering his hot start.

"I felt really good when I started the year," he added, "but with that shot the ankle was very weak. ... It didn't seem to get better."

Some more thoughts from Lecavalier: …

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Marty St. Louis is a Lady Byng finalist

Marty St. Louis led the NHL with 43 assists and 60 points in 48 games to capture his second career Art Ross Trophy.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Marty St. Louis led the NHL with 43 assists and 60 points in 48 games to capture his second career Art Ross Trophy.

Lightning right wing is a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, given annually "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability,”  as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Also nominated are Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane and Islanders left wing Matt Moulson. St. Louis won the award in 2010 and 2011. The winner will be announced during the Stanley Cup final

Following are the finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, in alphabetical order: …

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St. Louis on Yzerman: ''Full confidence in what he's trying to do''

Marty St. Louis, 38 in June, became the oldest player to ever win an NHL points championship.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Marty St. Louis, 38 in June, became the oldest player to ever win an NHL points championship.

For all the negativity that surrounded the Lightning this season, right wing Marty St. Louis sounds relatively upbeat about what is in the team's future.

St. Louis, 38 in June, who became the oldest player to ever win an NHL points championship says he "feels good" about what Tampa Bay has in the locker room and that he has "full confidence" in what general manager Steve Yzerman is trying to do.

"I feel some of his pain," St. Louis said, "because he wants to win and it hasn't gone the way he'd like to the last couple of years."

St. Louis hit on some other topics recently. Here are excerpts of what he had to say: …

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Marty St. Louis is a finalist for the NHLPA's Ted Lindsay Award

Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis on Thursday was named a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Awad, given annually by the NHL Players Association to the league's "most outstanding player."

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin also were named finalists for the award voted on by Players Association members. St. Louis previously won the award in 2004 when it was known as the Pearson Award.

St. Louis has a good case as he won the league points championship, and at 37 years old is the oldest player to ever win the Art Ross Trophy.

Here is a synopsis of each player's accomplishments this season: …

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Jon Cooper says his first 15 NHL games are a running start

Jon Cooper went 4-8-3 as head coach of the Lightning after Guy Boucher was fired.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jon Cooper went 4-8-3 as head coach of the Lightning after Guy Boucher was fired.

Coach Jon Cooper is passionate about how he wants the Lightning to develop over time. The last thing he wants is a team that, in terms of the playoffs, is "out, out, out, in, out, out, out, in."

Cooper said the model should be the Red Wings, which this season made the postseason for the 22nd consecutive year.

The coach, who went 4-8-3 after Guy Boucher was fired, said of missing the playoffs, "It's somewhere we never want to be again." But 15 NHL games under his belt "makes us that much farther ahead for next season." …

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Lightning signs D Radko Gudas to 3-year, $2.975 million deal

In 22 games with Tampa Bay, Radko Gudas had two goals, five points, was plus-3 and had 38 penalty minutes while averaging 16:59 of ice time.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

In 22 games with Tampa Bay, Radko Gudas had two goals, five points, was plus-3 and had 38 penalty minutes while averaging 16:59 of ice time.

The Lightning on Monday signed dfefenseman Radko Gudas to a three-year, one-way contract, the team announced.

The $2.975 million package pays $575,000 next season, $1 million in 2014-15 and $1.4 million in 2015-16. His cap hit is $991,667. Gudas, 22, was to be a restricted free agent.

Gudas, 6 feet, 204 pounds, started the season with AHL Syracuse, but in 22 games with Tampa Bay had two goals, five points, was plus-3 and had 38 penalty minutes while averaging 16:59 of ice time. His 87 hits were third on the team, just four behind leader Keith Aulie who played 45 games.

In 57 games for the Crunch this season, Gudas had four goals, 20 points, 207 penalty minutes and was a league-best plus-32.

The Lightning drafted Gudas 66th overall in 2010.

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Steven Stamkos says 'more urgency' needed from core group

Steven Stamkos isn't quite done with hockey as he is playing for Canada at the world championship in Sweden and Finland.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos isn't quite done with hockey as he is playing for Canada at the world championship in Sweden and Finland.

Lightning star Steven Stamkos has started what he called "a long summer" after the team for the second straight season finished out of the playoffs.

The center had a fine season. His 29 goals and 57 points were second in the league. Still, he called 2012-13 "a dark year" and put the onus on the core grpoup of players to increase its ugency and consistency to get Tampa Bay back to the postseason.

Stamkos, 23, isn't quite done with hockey as he is playing for Canada at the world championship in Sweden and Finland. He took some time to talk to reporters before he left. …

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Lightning agrees to terms with prospect Cedric Paquette

The Lightning on Thursday agreed to terms with prospect Cedric Paquette on a three-year, entry-level contract. The center had 27 goals, 83 points, 103 penalty minutes and was plus-29 in 63 games for Blainville-Boisbriand of the junior Quebec league.

Here is the announcement from the team:Full Story

Yzerman: 'I'm not going to be held to timelines'

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman talks with the media during Monday's season-ending news conference.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman talks with the media during Monday's season-ending news conference.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman understands their is impatience with the team's lack of success. But that does not mean abandoning his long-term plan.

"I'm not going to be held to timelines," he said this week. "These things take time and we’re going to be patient and we’re going to try to draft well and we’re going to try to use free agency wisely,"

Yzerman hit on several topics in his postseason news conference. Here are excerpts of what he had to say:Full Story

Reminder: Damian Cristodero chat at noon

Want to talk about the 2012-13 Lightning season? What went right or wrong? Who'll be back? Who won't? How about the NHL playoffs? Whatever's on your mind, join Times beat reporter Damian Cristodero for a live chat TODAY, from noon to 1 p.m.

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