The Lightning locked up another piece of its blueline Monday, re-signing defenseman Andrej Sustr to a one-year, $1.95 million deal.
Sustr, 26, was a restricted free agent coming off his fourth full season in the NHL. He had 14 points in 80 games last season, a minus-10.
With the Lightning losing veteran Jason Garrison to Vegas in the expansion draft, re-signing Sustr - at a short term, relatively cheap deal - provides some insurance on the back end. Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn are returning. And the Lightning is going to give young defensemen Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek and recently-acquired Mikhail Sergachev a chance to make the team out of training camp.
Koekkoek, 23, and Dotchin, 23, are also restricted free agents. Each were given qualifying offers by Monday's 5 p.m. deadline and are expected to be re-signed.
Sustr, signed as a college free agent out of Nebraska Omaha, is approaching the 300-game plateau (at 274). The 6-foot-7, right-shot was a key cog on the penalty kill last season, and likely can slide into the bottom pair. …
Former Tampa Bay Lightning player center Brian Boyle (24), on the ice during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 16, 2017.
As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.
That's easy to do for Boyle, whose wife, Lauren, gave birth to their second child, daughter Isabella, on May 24. On Sunday, Boyle, 32, played in the backyard of his Hingham, Mass home with his three-year-old son, Declan. But Boyle took some time to talk to the Tampa Bay Times about his future.
"It's going to be an interesting week," Boyle said.
And Boyle, dealt to Toronto at the March trade deadline, said he's interested in returning to the Lightning.
"We love Tampa," Boyle told the Times. "If Tampa wanted to work out a deal, that's definitely a huge option for us. That's something that I've kind of always thought about. I haven't closed the door on anything."
The question is whether the feeling is mutual? The Lightning is looking to add at least one, if not two, forwards to its top-nine. Yzerman is targeting the wing, right or left, and Boyle - a natural center - played the wing a lot late in his three-year stint with Tampa Bay. But the Lightning wasn't among the first group of teams to contact Boyle's camp Sunday when the window for courting unrestricted free agents opened. …
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blueline and adding another wing or two.
And it sounds like Tampa Bay is kicking the tires on the biggest fish in the free agent market, veteran defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Lightning is one of many teams who checked in with Shattenkirk Sunday, per sources. The window for teams to court pending unrestricted free agents opened at midnight.
Shattenkirk, 28, is a puck-moving, right-shot, top-four defenseman, who is more than capable of quarterbacking a power play. That would certainly fit a need for Tampa Bay. But it won't come cheap. Shattenkirk, who made $4.25 million last season, will likely net a huge long-term deal this summer in a small free agent market for defensemen. There will be a number of teams interested.
Shattenkirk had 13 goals and 43 assists last season, which was split between St. Louis and Washington, which acquired him at the trade deadline. The Lightning attempted to acquire him last season, but Shattenkirk reportedly nixed a potential deal from St. Louis to Tampa in January. …
Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev headlines a roster of top Lightning prospects that will attend this week's development camp at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.
The camp, which runs Tuesday through Saturday, is free and open to the public.
The first practice starts at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with drills doing until 3 p.m. There is a 3-on-3 tournament Friday (2 p.m.-4) and Saturday (11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). Russian wing Alex Vokov, the second round pick Saturday, will also not arrive until Wednesday. …
After taking a big, right-shot defenseman in the first round, the Lightning's second day of the NHL Draft was headlined by a couple skilled Russian forwards.
Tampa Bay selected 6-foot-1 winger Alexander Volkov in the second round (No. 48), with hopes to sign him and send him to AHL Syracuse next season. In the third round, the Lightning was thrilled to have center Alexei Lipanov fell to them at No. 76.
Tampa Bay is no stranger to drafting Russians, picking No. 1 goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round in 2012, and Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov with back-to-back picks in 2011. The Lightning recently acquired D Mikhail Sergachev from Montreal in the Jonathan Drouin blockbuster.
"There's still some bias somewhere with some Russian players - we don't have that bias in our organization," said Al Murray, Lightning director of amateur scouting. "We want the best players."
Murray said the Lightning got a jump on Volkov, who likely fell under the radar due to an ankle before the World Juniors, which forced him to miss most of the season. Murray said several other teams congratulated them on the Volkov pick, noting he was coming up quickly on their list. …
The Lightning revealed some of its plans for its 25th anniversary season, including a ceremony to honor the 2004 Stanley Cup team.
That event will be held Nov. 4 before a game against the Blue Jackets, coached by former Lightning coach John Tortorella. That means Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards will likely be reunited again.
Other events include a Brew Fest Aug. 5, and a ceremony to recognize the original 1992-93 team Oct. 14. There's also a ceremony celebrating the 25 favorite Lightning personnel (players, executives, personalities), which is TBA. Tampa Bay will host the All Star Game Jan. 27-28.
There is, however, no plans as of yet to have a jersey retirement ceremony, VP Bill Wickett said. Would think Lecavalier's No. 4 is next, with Marty St. Louis the first to get retired last season.
The Lightning also unveiled its new road jersey, which will no longer have "Tampa Bay" on the front, just the logo. There will be a 25th anniversary patch on the right shoulder.
The Lightning is reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been trying to further bolster his blueline, and he may have a chance to acquire one by tonight's first round of the NHL Draft.
Several teams are shopping defensemen, most notably the Wild, who appear close on a deal with left-shot defenseman Marco Scandella, per Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Wild has been asking for a first round pick in any package; Tampa Bay picks No. 14 tonight.
Would think Tampa Bay is more interested in Wild right-shot Matt Dumba, as well as Jonas Brodin, but it likely depends on the price. The Lightning is also reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks. That's a pretty stiff price. …
Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.
That's what made Thursday so gratifying for Budaj, 34, who signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year. The Times reported the agreement Tuesday, the deal wasn't announced until Thursday's roster freze was over.
"I know I can play and I never doubted myself," Budaj told the Times Thursday. "It was tough but I always believed I could do it."
Budaj, acquired at the March deadline from the Kings in the Ben Bishop trade, decided to forego unrestricted free agency July 1 to sign early with Tampa Bay. Budaj, who won three of his four Tampa Bay starts, loved his short time with the Lightning.
"I really liked the organization, liked the team," Budaj said. "I had a very good vibe when I was there." …
The Lightning could target a veteran defenseman on the market, such as MInnesota's Matt Dumba.
With the dust settling on the expansion draft saga, the Lightning can now focus on addressing some of its needs.
And with around $23 million in cap space for next season, GM Steve Yzerman can be active and aggressive on the trade and free agent market. There are expected to be many league-wide deals this weekend at the NHL Draft in Chicago, now that the roster freeze was lifted at 8 a.m.
"I would say we're going to explore every opportunity to make our team better," Yzerman said.
One area of focus is expected to be the blueline. Tampa Bay did acquire a potential top-pairing defenseman in prospect Mikhail Sergachev in last week's Jonathan Drouin blockbuster with Montreal. The Lightning was able to hold onto young defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin thanks to a side deal with Vegas at the expansion draft, paying the price of the rights of forward prospect Nikita Gusev, a second-round pick this weekend and a fourth rounder next year. …
The Lightning was able to clear $4.6 million in cap space for next season, thanks to Vegas making defenseman Jason Garrison its selection.
The Lightning was able to hold onto its unprotected young defensemen Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek in Wednesday's expansion draft.
Tampa Bay was also able to clear $4.6 million in cap space for next season, thanks to Vegas making defenseman Jason Garrison its selection.
But it came at a cost.
Tampa Bay shipped the rights to Russian wing prospect Nikita Gusev to Vegas, along with a second round pick this season and a fourth round pick in 2018. Gusev, a seventh-rounder in 2012, has one more year left on his deal in the KHL and has no immediate plans to play in the NHL, per agent Dan Milstein.
The Lightning did have two second rounders in this weekend's draft, but a couple picks plus Gusev is a hefty price, showing how much leverage the Golden Knights had over other NHL teams.
For Tampa Bay, that cap space will likely be used to search for another defenseman, either via trade or free agency, which opens July 1.
Victor Hedman had a career season, with 72 points (16 goals, 56 assists) in 16 games.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman knew he was a "longshot" Wednesday to win the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's top defenseman.
But Hedman was honored to be one of three finalists, finishing third in voting behind winner Brent Burns (San Jose) and fellow Swede Erik Karlsson (Ottawa). Burns had 96 first place votes, Karlsson 63 and Hedman three.
Hedman had a career season, with 72 points (16 goals, 56 assists) in 16 games. This was the first time he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy, but likely not the last.
Veteran defenseman Jason Garrison is the favorite to be picked by Vegas in the expansion draft.
There is still nothing official on what player the Lightning will lose tonight in the expansion draft with the Vegas Golden Knights.
But the Tampa Bay Times can confirm there are several players Vegas has not chosen, which points to an expected side deal, with veteran Jason Garrison the favorite to be picked.
The Lightning is believed to have made a deal to hold onto young defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin, both of whom are restricted free agents. Center Yanni Gourde, who made a splash as a rookie last season, isn't one of the two unrestricted free agents that Vegas has selected, the Times has learned. Forward J.T. Brown hasn't yet been contacted, a sign he hasn't been selected.
So that means it is all the more likely Tampa Bay has a side deal with Vegas. We've reported prospect Nikita Gusev's rights appear headed to the Golden Knights as part of this trade. But the most likely candidate to head to Vegas is Garrison, who has a $4.6 million cap hit for next season, the final year in his deal. Fellow defenseman Andrej Sustr is another option. So, albeit unlikely, is Cedric Paquette. …
If the Lightning is indeed making a side deal with Vegas to protect its young defensemen - or lose a contract like Jason Garrison's - it would likely have to part with a promising prospect.
One candidate appears to be Russian wing Nikita Gusev.
Gusev's rights could be dealt to the Golden Knights today, per source. Russian site Sovsport.ru also reported a trade is "likely." Gusev, 24, has one more year left on his deal with SKA.
Gusev, a Lightning seventh-round pick in 2012, is a talented scorer in the KHL, racking up 24 goals (and 71 points) in 57 games. His linemate, Vadim Shipachyov, has already signed with Vegas. Another one, Evgeny Dadonov, could be heading there too, making for an interesting Russian reunion.
Now, there's no guarantee Gusev's rights are dealt, but it's been part of the discussions with Vegas. Tampa Bay has previously offered Gusev just an AHL-only deal or a two-way deal, but the talented winger is enjoying a prominent role with SKA. …