There have been a few updates from the Tampa Bay Lightning the past several days, so get caught up with some news surrounding the Lightning and the rest of the NHL.
The NHL offseason is way beyond the midway point and thus far, Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman has made the deals he needed to make, except one. Lightning forward and point leader last season, Nikita Kucherov, has yet to be signed coming off the best season of his career. The 23-year-old Russian winger scored a career-high 30 goals and had 36 assists in 2015-16.
As you can tell, the Tampa Bay Lightning can’t afford to lose him to another team. However, there has been no mention of any offer sheets thrown his way, so it appears everything’s still on track between the two sides.
In keeping with the subject, Yzerman expressed that he’s confident a deal with Kucherov can be made and noted that some deals take longer than others to be executed. As of today, the Lightning have $6.59 million to work with in cap space to sign two players, Kucherov and Nesterov, and have already reached the 50 standard player contracts limit. Bolts By The Bay Editor, Tasha St. Pierre, takes a look at why this will all work out in the end. [Bolts By The Bay]
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The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed restricted free agent Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year, $3.875 million contract on Tuesday and both sides avoided arbitration altogether, as he was set for an appointment this Friday. The young Russian center found a niche in the Lightning lineup last season, as he scored 14 goals and had 21 assists, and the coaching staff will likely try to slot him in the middle as much as possible. [Bolts By The Bay]
In addition to Namestnikov, the Tampa Bay Lightning also re-signed key prospect Yanni Gourde to a one-year, two-way contract on Monday morning. The undrafted Quebec native played in two games for the Lightning in 2015-16 and had one assist while averaging 7:19 of ice time. Gourde will likely spend most of the season in the AHL, but will look to be one of the main call-ups to fill in for an injured player during the season. [Bolts By The Bay]
After spending most of the off-season nursing a high-ankle and shin sprain that took him out of the net during the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop returned to the ice for the first time since the injury on Tuesday, per ESPN’s Joe McDonald. Bishop was a key piece in the Lightning’s run to the Conference Final and was excellent all season in 2015-16. He finished as a Vezina Trophy finalist for the second time in his career, but eventually lost out to Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
The 29-year-old netminder is entering into the final year of his two-year contract, which is worth $11.9 million overall. After the Lightning signed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three year deal, there has been much speculation that Bishop will be moved before or during the upcoming season as a result. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. [The Hockey Writers]
In keeping with Bishop, take a look at his cool new mask that he plans to wear during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September. He’s expected to be ready for the two-week tournament despite just returning from the aforementioned injury.
Of the 106 scheduled regular season games that the NBC Sports Group will broadcast during the 2016-17 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be featured in seven of those games (shocking, right?). You can view the schedule and more regarding NBC’s schedule here.
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that registration for the NHLPA/NHL Lightning Made Learn to Play program is officially open. It will run for eight weeks at three different rinks and is for skaters ages four to eight. You can learn more about the organization’s initiative to further its reach into the community and put more sticks in hands on the team’s official website. [Tampa Bay Lightning]
News From Around The NHL
In the ongoing debate over whether head injuries have had the same effect in hockey compared to other contact sports, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman continues to deny the link between the long-term effects of head trauma, fighting, and CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Bettman filed a 24-page response to the questions posed by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in the United States District Court in Minneapolis. Many fans and former players no longer see him as suited for the position he holds after hearing his side on this controversial topic. [FanSided]
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Atlantic Division foes, the Detroit Red Wings, recently re-signed one of their top goaltenders, Petr Mrazek, to a two-year, $8 million extension. It was a smart decision for the Wings, which are tight against the cap, since Mrazek still hasn’t proven he can handle the starting job with consistency. In addition, goaltender Jimmy Howard is still on the payroll and has three years left on his deal, so it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod on opening night, which is against the Lightning, by the way. [FanSided]
The NHL recently announced that the league has reached a deal with Fox Sports that will allow subscribers to watch local broadcasts from other regional networks on the popular Fox Sports Go app beginning in 2016-17. This is great news for hockey fans in general as they “will now have more ways to follow their favorite NHL teams,” per David M. Proper, the NHL executive VP of media distribution and strategy/business affairs. [Broadcasting and Cable]
Finally, this coming season, the NHL will live stream one game per week on Twitter and will be free to all users, logged in or out. The new service will stream one out-of-market game each week depending on location and is slated to only be available in the United States. This is a new trend that the NFL and MLB have already begun doing and it’ll be a great way for fans who don’t get to watch a particular team all that often. [SB Nation]
The off-season has certainly been a busy one, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have managed to “fly under the radar” a bit since the signings of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Now it’s time to lock up the core and sign Nikita Kucherov to a long-term deal. It’s only a matter of time before that actually happens.