Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning works on re-signing restricted free agents

PHILADELPHIA — The Lightning continues to make progress on its group of restricted free agents, having made qualifying offers to wings Richard Panik and Brett Connolly.

And the team was scheduled to meet with defenseman Mark Barberio's camp Thursday night in Philadelphia, so a deal could be done soon.

Panik, 23, had three goals and 10 assists last season. Connolly, 22, the sixth overall pick in 2010, has played in 84 NHL games.

Agent Gerry Johannson is confident they'll get a deal done with Panik and Connolly, who have 30 days to accept the offer or work out other terms.

Johannson added there's no rush but it won't take the full month.

"Both players like Tampa, and Tampa likes both players," Johannson said. "So that's a good starting point."

Other restricted free agents for Tampa Bay include defensemen Andrej Sustr and Keith Aulie.

"We're slowly chipping away," GM Steve Yzerman said. "We're optimistic we'll get them done."

TOP OF CLASS: D Matt Niskanen told the Penguins he intends to test free agency starting Tuesday.

Let the bidding begin with the Lightning likely one of the many suitors. One of Tampa Bay's biggest needs is finding another top-four defenseman, specifically on the right side, and Niskanen, 27, fits that bill.

Niskanen, who shoots right, set career bests in games (81), goals (10) and points (46) last season. He made $2.5 million, will likely be looking for a long-term deal and, with many teams interested, could be expensive.

Other free agent defensemen include Dan Boyle, 37, who would be interested in returning to Tampa, where he played from 2002-08 and still owns property.

"At this point, Dan is going to be open to all options," agent George Bazos said. "I know he loves it down there. Winning the Cup (in 2004) and everything down there could be one of the highlights of his career."

The Rangers' Anton Stralman, 27, and Niskanen's teammate, Brooks Orpik, 33, among other defensemen, also should be available.

STAMKOS UPDATE: C Steven Stamkos said he planned to start his offseason workouts earlier than usual in an effort to strengthen his surgically repaired right leg. And the Lightning has received some positive reports on how its captain is progressing.

"As of last week, he was going at it really hard," Yzerman said. "He's going with no restrictions and very little, if any, discomfort.

"I can't give you whether he's 95 or 100 (percent). All I know is he's pushing hard."

BACKING UP: The Lightning is monitoring the free agent market for a veteran backup goalie with Yzerman saying he has a "short list." Yzerman insists while he didn't make a qualifying offer to Anders Lindback, he hasn't ruled out bringing him back.

"We want to see what the other options are," Yzerman said. "And our best option might be Anders."

LISTEN IN: The Lightning will do a draft show at 7 tonight on 970-AM with Rick Peckham, Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, Jassen Cullimore and Dave Mishkin.

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