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FanFest set for Sept. 25, camp opens Sept. 22

Fan Fest includes live team scrimmages, player autographs, family and kids' activities, as well as specials on merchandise, food and drinks.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Fan Fest includes live team scrimmages, player autographs, family and kids' activities, as well as specials on merchandise, food and drinks.

Lightning Fan Fest will be held Sept. 25, beginning at 11 a.m. at Amalie Arena, though season ticket holders will be allowed in before 11. The event is free.

Fan Fest includes live team scrimmages, player autographs, family and kids' activities, as well as specials on merchandise, food and drinks.

Information on tickets will be released at a later date.


The Lightning open training camp Sept. 22 at Amalie Arena.

 

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Lightning to participate in rookie tournament

The Lightning announced Tuesday it will participate in a four-team rookie tournament Sept 17-20 in Coral Springs.

The host Panthers, Capitals, Predators will join Tampa Bay in the event at the Panthers IceDen. The Lightning's roster will be released later, but is expected to include some top prospects.

Tampa Bay's games are Sept. 17 at 2:30 pm against the Capitals, Sept 18 at 2:30 p.m. against Nashville and Sept 20 at 1:30 p.m. against Florida. The event is free and open to the public.

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Bolts sign veteran D James Wisniewski

James Wisniewski, right, playing for the Anaheim Ducks, celebrates Francois Beauchemin's goal during a game in 2015.

AP photo

James Wisniewski, right, playing for the Anaheim Ducks, celebrates Francois Beauchemin's goal during a game in 2015.

The Lightning on Thursday signed D James Wisneiwski to a professional tryout contract with an invite to training camp.

Wisniewski, 32, missed all but one game last season with a torn left ACL suffered Oct. 8 against Nashville. He tore his right ACL three times during his career.

Wisniewski (5-foot-11, 203 pounds), has played in 53 NHL games over 11 seasons. He will compete for the 7th defenseman spot and will provide depth during camp.

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Yzerman expects to get Nikita Kucherov signed

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

DIRK SHADD | Times

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

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman's offseason couldn't have gone much better so far, especially with the re-signing of captain Steven Stamkos and locking up cornerstone defenseman Victor Hedman long-term.

But after avoiding arbitration with center Vladislav Namestnikov Tuesday - signing him to a two-year deal - Yzerman has one big item left on his to-do list.

Nikita Kucherov.

Kucherov, 23, one of the league's top young stars, is a restricted free agent, and is due a hefty raise from the $700,000 he made last season. He's coming off a 30-goal season, and another clutch playoff performance. Think of the Predators' six-year, $36 million deal with Filip Forsberg as an example.

Yzerman said Wednesday he remains confident the Lightning can sign Kucherov, though would not put a timeline on when it'd happen. Yzerman suggested it could take until the start of the season. Agent Scott Greenspun declined to comment on negotiations.

"We continue to communicate with his representation," Yzerman said. "And we expect to have him under contract to start the season." …

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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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