Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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So what will the Lightning do today? (Update #2)
Posted Jun 30, 2008 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Jun 30, 2008 at 03:42 PM
Good morning folks, how’d you sleep? Me, not so well. I can’t even make simple enough plans to play cards with the neighbors, take a jump in the pool or make a trip to Sam’s Club these days, let alone make plans for a trip to D.C. or a day at Busch Gardens without all hell breaking loose right now.
Let’s recap the week to this point:
June 23 - Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie are introduced at a press conference in Tampa, where they first announce a deal in principle is in place with Vinny Prospal and that they plan to be “shockingly aggressive’’ in free agency (certainly some foreshadow)
June 24 - Barry Melrose is introduced as the new head coach in a press conference filled with plenty of glitz and promise that also includes the announcement of Rick Tocchet and Wes Walz as part of the staff.
June 25 - Word begins to circulate that Vinny Lecavalier is on the verge of signing a contract extension worth $77 million over nine years that is later confirmed by team sources, although details are still being worked out.
June 26 - Overall No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos comes to town for his introduction to the Tampa area and meets with the local media. Meanwhile, owners Koules and Barrie head out of town for a quiet weekend before the start of free agency.
June 27 - All is quiet!!!!
June 28 - Tampa Bay acquires the negotiating rights to pending free agents Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts from Pittsburgh and immediately begins discussing contracts for both players.
June 29 - Word begins to circulate that the Lightning have come to terms on deals for both Malone and Roberts, with Malone expected to sign a seven-year deal worth $31.5 million while Roberts is expected to sign a one-year, incentive laden deal that could pay him up to $2 million.
June 29 (late night) - Tampa Bay makes another bold move acquiring the rights to negotiate with Minnesota forward Brian Rolston, giving the team about 36 hours to try to work out a deal.
June 30 - ?????? I guess we have to stay tuned to see what today brings, but I would have to think that we will get official word on the signings of Malone and Roberts. I also think that there is a good chance that we hear that Rolston could sign a contract today as well.
Now, I got word late from Koules last night when I asked him, with everything that has gone on over the weekend, what does he have in store for Tuesday, and his reply was “Maybe a big deal!!!!!!’‘
We are really going to have to keep a close eye on things right now because word continues to circulate that Dan Boyle is on the block. This doesn’t come as a shock because Boyle was nearly dealt at the trade deadline and the payroll keeps jumping up and up.
Also, as far as free agency goes, look for the team to go after a goaltender, possibly somebody like Alex Auld or Olie Kolzig. There are only three goaltenders under contract for next season right now - Mike Smith, Karri Ramo and Riku Helenius - and there is speculation that Tampa Bay would like Ramo to play down in Norfolk next year getting in 60 or so games in the minors. That way, there is a backup plan for Smith in case he can’t seize the No. 1 job.
Keep checking in today, because as we’ve seen in the past 48 hours, anything can - and will - happen.
Saw this on the Minneapolis Star Tribune site today quoting new Tampa Bay VP of Hockey Operations in regards to Brian Rolston:
“This one’s pretty simple. We’ve identified Brian as one of the elite free agents available, one his ability and two his character,” Lawton said. “We’re excited to have his rights and we’ll get into it [Monday] and see where it takes us. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and a deep appreciation for him as a player and person.”
Just got word from a team source that they are still working hard on a contract for Brian Rolston, but nothing appears imminent at this point on that front, though they are still talking. Also, it appears that the deals for Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts will be made official later today.
In the meantime, Tampa Bay has acquired defenseman Janne Niskala from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in 2009.
Niskala, 26, appears to be an under-sized (5-foot-11) offensive defenseman after scoring 19 goals and 44 points in 80 games with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. Niskala was drafted by Nashville in the fifth round at the 2004 draft and has played one season of North American hockey. He was dealt to Philadelphia last week and is a restricted free agent who had a NHL salary of $625,000 last season.