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Lightning re-signs Yanni Gourde to one-year deal

The Lightning re-signed forward Yanni Gourde to a one-year, two-way deal Monday. 

Gourde, 24, was a restricted free agent. He made his NHL debut with Tampa Bay last season, appearing in two games. Gourde will provide depth at AHL Syracuse. 

With Gourde signed, the Lightning has three remaining restricted free agents, Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov and Vladislav Namestnikov, who has an arbitration hearing set for Friday. 

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Brad Richards on career: 'I'll cherish all of it'

Brad Richards, 36, announced his retirement Wednesday after 15 seasons. The first seven years were spent with the Lightning, including his Conn Smythe Trophy performance in the 2004 Stanley Cup run.

[Times files | 2004]

Brad Richards, 36, announced his retirement Wednesday after 15 seasons. The first seven years were spent with the Lightning, including his Conn Smythe Trophy performance in the 2004 Stanley Cup run.

Brad Richards briefly pauses a phone interview Thursday so he can get his hands free.

You can't blame the former Lightning star. His son, Luca, turns 2 in October, when wife Rechelle is expecting a baby girl to join the burgeoning family.

"Growing by the minute," Richards said.

Richards, 36, announced his retirement Wednesday after 15 seasons. The first seven years were spent with the Lightning, including his Conn Smythe Trophy performance in the 2004 Stanley Cup run.

"The most fun I've ever had in hockey," he said.

Richards said he's been thinking about retirement since January, officially deciding three weeks ago. Other than "not wanting to hold on too long," Richards said a key reason was how tough it's been on him and his family to spend the last three seasons with three separate teams, constantly moving. Richards still listened during free agency, when he had an offer, but it didn't feel right. If he had been on the same team the last three-four years, it might have been different.

But it was time. His career was over.

"I don't feel cheated in the least," Richards said. "When you play with great people in great cities. I'll cherish all of it." …

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Nikita Nesterov added to Team Russia for World Cup

Nikita Nesterov, a restricted free agent, joins fellow Tampa Bay players Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrei Vasilevskiy with Russia.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Nikita Nesterov, a restricted free agent, joins fellow Tampa Bay players Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrei Vasilevskiy with Russia.

Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov has been added to Team Russia for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. 

Nesterov, a restricted free agent, joins fellow Tampa Bay players Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrei Vasilevskiy with Russia for the tournament, which runs from Sept 16-Oct 4 in Toronto. 

The Lightning will have 12 players total in the World Cup, including Steven Stamkos (Canada), Ben Bishop (USA), Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman (Sweden), Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr (Czech Republic), Valtteri Filppula (Finland) and Jonathan Drouin (North America Under-23). Head coach Jon Cooper will be on Team North America staff. 

Ryan Callahan was on Team USA but won't be available to play due to hip surgery. Teammate Tyler Johnson is a candidate to replace Callahan.

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Lightning and Alex Killorn agree to seven-year deal

The Lightning has locked up another core player long-term, agreeing with wing Alex Killorn on a seven-year deal which brings a $4.45 million annual average.

Killorn, 25, who made $2.55 million last season, was a restricted free agent who had filed for arbitration. He's entering his fifth season with the Lightning, having racked up 14 goals and 26 assists in 81 games last year (five, eight, 13 points in playoffs).

Killorn has a modified no-trade clause.

"We're very comfortable doing a long-term contract at the right cap number with Alex," GM Steve Yzerman said Sunday. "He's been with us his entire career. He's a high-character  young man, tremendously fit and part of the core of our team. We're trying to keep the core together as much as we can."

With Killorn signed, the Lightning has about $8.53 million remaining in cap space for next season, and still have remaining restricted free agents like Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Nesterov to sign. Yzerman said it's their intention to sign Kucherov, Namestnikov and Nesterov, but offered no update other than saying negotiations continue. Namestnikov has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29. …

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F Cory Conacher returns on 1-year, 1-way deal

Cory Conacher, the forward traded to Ottawa at the end of the 2012-13 season, is back with the Lightning, having signed a 1-year, 1-way contract worth $575,000.

The signing adds another forward to a team already deep in forwards.

Conacher, 26, played in 141 career NHL Games, including 35 for the Lightning in ’12-‘13. He scored five goals and 12 points in his first six games and finished the season with nine goals and 24 assists.

Conacher, 5-8, 182-pounds, also played for the Sabers and Islanders. He played last season for former Lightning coach Guy Boucher for Bern in the Switzerland National League, where he scored 22 goals and totaled 52 points in 48 games. He scored five goals and had nine points in 14 playoff games.

 

Conacher was a member of the Team Canada last season at the Spengler Cup. He was named to the all-tournament team after helping Team Canada win the title.

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Lightning add depth, sign F Mike Halmo to 1-year, 2-way contract

The Lightning announced Saturday it signed F Mike Halmo, 25, to a one-year, two-way contract.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Halmo played 74 games last season with Bridgeport in the AHL. He scored 22 goals, totaled 41 points and had 117 penalty minutes. He set career-highs in game played, goals and points.

Halmo played in 20 games with the Islanders during the 2013-14 season. He had one goal and 32 penalty minutes.

 

Halmo has played with Bridgeport over the past five seasons, appearing in 214 games. He’s scored 56 goals and had 112 points.

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Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov file for arbitration

Lightning centers Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov filed for arbitration by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

Both players were offered qualifying offers.

If they do not reach agreements on contracts for the upcoming season they will go to arbitration.

Hearings are scheduled for July 20-Aug. 4.

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Highlights from Lightning prospect 3-on-3 tournament

Lightning prospect Jonne Tammela said he really gained confidence near the end of last season, when he got a brief stint at AHL Syracuse.

Tammela, 18, a skilled left wing who had been playing in Finland, quickly felt the pro game fit his style perfectly.

"I felt I had played North American hockey my whole life," Tammela said." It felt so easy to me and natural. I've always been a good skater, the game was faster. It gave me confidence."

That showed at this week's Lightning development camp in Brandon, where Tammela helped lead his Team Killorn to a victory in the 3-on-3 tournament Saturday. Tammela, who had four goals and four assists in the two-day tournament, was joined by Chris Paquette (five goals), Alex Iafallo (four goals), Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton and John MacLeod.

Though Tammela wants to play for Syracuse next season, he's scheduled to play for Peterborough. Stacy Roest, Lightning director of player development, said Tammela, a fourth-rounder last year, used his speeds, smarts and competitivness to create space, but is better suited in larger role.

"He needs to play," Roest said. "It'll be nice to see him play big minutes." …

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Lightning sign Andrei Vasilevskiy to three-year extension

The Lightning signed Andrei Vasilevkiy, 21, to a three-year extension worth $3.5 million annually.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Lightning signed Andrei Vasilevkiy, 21, to a three-year extension worth $3.5 million annually.

The Lightning will soon have to make a decision in net, with goalie Ben Bishop entering the final year of his deal and only one goalie allowed to be protected in next year's expansion draft.

And Tampa Bay has now made a strong commitment to Andrei Vasilevkiy, 21, signing him to a three-year extension Friday worth $3.5 million annually. Vasilevskiy has one year left on his deal at $925,000.

"He wanted to show Tampa that he's prepared to committ and let's see what happens," Vasilevskiy's agent Rolly Hedges told the Times. "He just wanted to show what he can do, wanted to be part of the organization. He could have waited a year, but he wanted to show he's a team player."

Hedges said there were no guarantees given by Tampa Bay regarding next year's expansion draft, Vasilevskiy doesn't have a no move or no trade clause. Bishop has one year left on his deal at $5.95 million, and has been a subject of trade rumors.

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Lightning lock up Victor Hedman for eight years

After watching captain Steven Stamkos' negotiations go down to the wire, the Lightning wasted no time Friday in locking up another franchise foundation.

Defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year, $63 million extension ($7.85 million AAV) on the first day he could, exactly one year away from unrestricted free agency. There's a no-trade clause throughout. Agent Peter Wallen told the Times negotiations, which began at last weekend's draft, went "super, super fast," both sides wanting to get it done "badly."

"For me, it was never a doubt," Hedman said. "Staying in Tampa was my No. 1 priority."

The Lightning also signed goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy Friday to a three-year extension $3.5 million AAV), a potential sign of their decision in goal. And GM Steve Yzerman said they're confident they can sign restricted free agent wing Nikita Kucherov.

But some of the biggest heavy lifting has been done, signing Stamkos to an eight-year, $68 million deal Wednesday, and now Hedman. Stamkos, taken No. 1 overall in 2008, and Hedman, No. 2 in 2009, have become among the best at their positions, not to mention key leaders on the Lightning. …

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Lightning loses Marchessault, signs Bournival

Jonathan Marchessault could get more of a chance to play with the Panthers.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jonathan Marchessault could get more of a chance to play with the Panthers.

Jonathan Marchessault has signed with the Panthers, a two-year deal at $750,000, per TSN.

That means the Lightning  lost one of its unrestricted free agents. Marchessault's agent had said there was mutual interest between him and Tampa Bay. But it would seem that Marchessault could get more of a chance to play with the Panthers.

Marchessault, 26, was a pleasant surprise last season for the Lightning. After being one of the final cuts in camp and clearing waivers, Marchessault made an impact in an early-season callup. He had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games, albeit a minus-10. His playing time dwindled in the playoffs, appearing in five games. In limbo most of the year, his family of four lived mostly out of a hotel before settling into an apartment in Brandon.

The Lightning did add to its depth in AHL Syracuse by signig left wing Michael Bournival, who spent last season with Montreal's AHL St. John's IceCaps.

Tampa Bay has yet to sign its restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kristers Gudlevskis. Nothing appears imminent at this point, but we'll see as the day unfolds.

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Yzerman 'confident' Lightning can sign Nikita Kucherov

Nikita Kucherov, 23, is one of the league's top young stars, and is due a hefty raise from the $700,000 he made last season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Nikita Kucherov, 23, is one of the league's top young stars, and is due a hefty raise from the $700,000 he made last season.

With captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman both locked up for eight more years, the attention turns to another foundation-type player, wing Nikita Kucherov.

Kucherov, 23, is a restricted free agent, due a big bump from the $700,000 he made last season, when he racked up 30 goals. He'll likely garner in the range of the six-year, $36 million extension Predators forward Filip Forsberg got this week, maybe more.

GM Steve Yzerman said Friday the team is engaged in negotiations, and optimistic a deal can get done.

"We'll do our best to get (it) done as quickly as possible," Yzerman said. "It's a process, hopefully sooner than later. I'm confident in that at some point, we'll be able to reach an agreement."

Kucherov could theoretically get an offer sheet from another team, which Tampa Bay is allowed to match. But it would prove costly if the team ends up signing him, costing that team compensation of a first, second and third round draft choice (if Kucherov makes between $5.6 million and $7.5 million annually). …

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Steven Stamkos said he followed his heart to Tampa

While Steven Stamkos had many other suitors, including his hometown Maple Leafs, he spurned potential sweepstakes — and more money —  to stay with the Lightning.

DIRK SHADD | Times

While Steven Stamkos had many other suitors, including his hometown Maple Leafs, he spurned potential sweepstakes — and more money — to stay with the Lightning.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said there were a couple sleepless nights throughout this whirlwind contract saga.

"It was a very tough decision, it truly was," Stamkos said on a conference call. "I can't say this past week has been fun. It was pretty stressful to be honest."

And while Stamkos, 26, had many other suitors, including his hometown Maple Leafs, he spurned potential sweepstakes - and more money - in Friday's free agency to stay with the Lightning. In the end, Stamkos said, that's where he always wanted to be.

"I felt in my heart that Tampa was always the place I wanted to stay," Stamkos said. "It was just following your heart and being loyal to the organization that brought me up and made me the player and person that I am today."

Stamkos signed an eight-year, $68 million deal ($8.5 million annual average) with the Lightning, acknowledging he likely left some money on the table with other teams; he declined to discuss what teams pursued him, or what they pitched). But Stamkos, picked No. 1 overall by Tampa Bay in 2008, said the Lightning gives him the best chance to win, the organization treating him and his family "first-class." …

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Lightning buys out veteran defenseman Matt Carle's contract

Matt Carle was Tampa Bay's highest paid defenseman last season at $5.5 million, but his role was declining, often a healthy scratch.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Matt Carle was Tampa Bay's highest paid defenseman last season at $5.5 million, but his role was declining, often a healthy scratch.

Veteran defenseman Matt Carle is being bought out by the Lightning, giving the team much-needed cap relief as it tries to sign other restricted free agents.

Carle, 31, was Tampa Bay's highest paid defenseman last season at $5.5 million, but his role was declining, often a healthy scratch, including in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. His buyout would save $3.67 million off the cap the next two seasons, his buyout spread out over the next four at $1.833 cap hit each season.

With the emergence of prospect Slater Koekkoek, who got key playing time in the playoffs, he should get a shot at cracking the top-six/seven next season, along with Nikita Nesterov, who is a restricted free agent.

After captain Steven Stamkos' eight-year, $68 million contract signed yesterday, the Lightning had just over $9 million in cap space remaining for next season, per generalfanager.com. The Carle buyout provides more cushion, needed as the Lightning needs to resign RFAs like Nikita Kucherov, who is due a big raise from $700,000, Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov. …

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Steven Stamkos staying with Lightning

All along, captain Steven Stamkos maintained he wanted to re-sign with the Lightning.

But as Stamkos came just two days away from unrestricted free agency, getting courted by other teams, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman admittedly had his doubts.

"Quite honestly, I didn't know how it was going to play out," Yzerman said.

But, in the end, Stamkos is staying, signing an eight-year deal worth $8.5 million annually, with a full-no move clause. TSN's Bob McKenzie was the first to report the story Wednesday. The Tampa Bay Times confirmed the news.

“It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning," Stamkos said in a statement. "Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our pursuit of winning a Stanley Cup.”

Stamkos, 26, had been talking with other teams through a five-day interview window. The Leafs, Red Wings, Sabres were among many teams interested.  Other teams were expected to offer more than $8.5 million annually, but a Times analysis showed that with no state income taxes, the Lightning could help bridge the gap. …

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