MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 15: Dennis Wideman #6 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck while being chased by Tom Pyatt #94 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 15, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Capitals defeated the Canadiens 4-2. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Free Agent Forward Tom Pyatt, Still No Word On Stamkos

No Stamkos signing yet, but the Lightning have made some smaller moves to fill holes further down the roster, including new backup goaltender Mathieu Garon.

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NHL Free Agency: Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Forward Tom Pyatt

The Tampa Bay Lightning recently announced the signing of forward Tom Pyatt to a one-year, two-way contract. While this is a minor move — it’s unclear whether he’ll start the season in the AHL or on one of the later lines for the Bolts — it’s important to have organizational depth, and Pyatt has the skills to be a contributor for the Lightning right away.

As John Fontana from Raw Charge noted, Pyatt could potentially serve a replacement for Sean Bergenheim or Nate Thompson:

Former Montreal Canadiens center Tom Pyatt, who has experience playing under Guy Boucher from the 2009-10 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, was inked by the Lightning today to a one-year, two-way contract.

Pyatt’s a defensive forward, though a little undersized (5’11", 180 lbs). He saw consistent time on the Habs penalty kill last season (averaging 2:11 of tice-time on the PK per game). He becomes immediate competition to Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola for the role of 3rd line grinder/agitator, which Bergenheim had performed last season.

Either way, the Bolts now have another player to look at in the preseason when trying to flesh out their team.


Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Free Agent Trevor Smith

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced this morning that they have signed center Trevor Smith to a one-year, two-way contract. It’s expected that Smith will serve mostly as roster fodder for the Bolts’ AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, but it’s always good to have depth in your minors in case of injuries.

From the official press release:

Smith, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, played in 68 games with the Syracuse Crunch and Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League last season, recording 20 goals and 43 points. He also notched five power-play goals and one shorthanded goal.

A native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Smith has skated in 282 career AHL games with the Crunch, Falcons and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has registered 92 goals and 192 points with 157 penalty minutes. Smith has played in seven career NHL games, all with the New York Islanders during the 2008-09 season. He has one career goal.

There’s still no word on the (restricted) free agent that’s on everyone’s mind: Steven Stamkos. Yzerman is still working on reaching a deal with him, but both sides are playing things very close to the chest.

For breaking news and updates on the Lightning’s off season moves, follow SB Nation Tampa Bay on Twitter or Facebook.


Lightning Free Agency: New Deal For Stamkos From Lightning May Be Just A Matter Of Time

There’s no official news to report on a new contract for restricted free agent Steven Stamkos, but let’s take a look at where things stand as far as the other 29 teams.

1. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, any team can attempt to sign Stamkos to an offer sheet, which the Lightning would then have the opportunity to match. For a player of Stamkos’s caliber, who would certainly be offered more than $5 million per season, the team signing him to the offer sheet would have to give the Lightning four first-round draft picks if they chose not to match the offer. This has been a very effective deterrent to teams poaching each other’s restricted free agents. It could still be done, but whichever team did it would be heavily mortgaging its own future.

2. There was a rumor earlier in the week that the Philadelphia Flyers might try and sign Stamkos to an outrageous offer sheet in the hopes of making the Lightning match it, screwing up their budget and salary-cap situation in the process. But general managers can be a vengeful sort, and often threats of mutually assured destruction are thrown around when a notable RFA hits the market. Ryan Lambert of Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog had a very good post about the moral hazards of offer sheets that’s worth your time.

3. Who even has the money left to offer the kind of offer sheet that could be too pricey for Jeff Vinik (who by the way is a billionaire) to match? While there are several teams with lots of cap space available, they’re all under self-imposed budgets, or they have their own free agents to worry about in the not-too-distant future, like the Los Angeles Kings and Drew Doughty, or the Anaheim Ducks with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. (The Rangers’ cap figure doesn’t include the Brad Richards contract yet; the charts are updated daily.)

Given all these factors, it looks like Stamkos will undoubtedly play for the Tampa Bay Lightning next season and beyond. It’s just a matter of waiting for GM Steve Yzerman and Stamkos’s agents to work out a deal. So go outside and get some fresh air this holiday weekend, Lightning fans. You have nothing to worry about.


Lightning Free Agency: Sean Bergenheim To Panthers, Simon Gagne To Kings, Brad Richards To Rangers

After Sean Bergenheim's unexpected playoff run (nine goals in 16 games after only scoring 14 in 80 regular-season games), and with the Lightning needing to save their dollars for upcoming contracts for Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, it seemed inevitable that the unrestricted free agent would end up leaving. Bergenheim was scooped up by the Florida Panthers in free agency yesterday, receiving a four-year, $11 million contract as the team spent freely to try and reach the NHL's mandated salary-cap floor. Lower-line players can be relatively easy to replace, but in this case it may be difficult to come up with a third-line combination that was as effective as Bergenheim, Dominic Moore, and Steve Downie were during the postseason. At that price, though, the Lightning had to let Bergenheim go.

Simon Gagne will not return to the Lightning after the Los Angeles Kings signed him to a two-year deal worth $7 million. Gagne played one season in Tampa Bay, scoring 40 points in 63 regular-season games and 12 points in the playoffs. He has a long injury history, though, and it may have contributed to the Lightning's decision not to re-sign him. Gagne will join up with Mike Richards, who was recently traded to Los Angeles by the Philadelphia Flyers. The two played together for the Flyers from 2005-10.

Also, the Lightning were forced to end their pursuit of free-agent center Brad Richards after the bidding went over their budget. Richards started his NHL career in Tampa Bay and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP in 2004 when the Lightning took home the Stanley Cup. Facing a money crunch and under pressure from incoming ownership, Richards was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2008, who then went through their own ownership/money crisis. This morning, word came out that the New York Rangers had signed Richards to a nine-year contract worth $60 million. (Rumor has it the contract is heavily front-loaded, although no concrete details have surfaced yet.) There was hope that Richards might accept a "hometown discount" to return to Tampa Bay and reunite with old teammates Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Pavel Kubina. But when the difference could have been in the eight-figure range, it makes sense that Richards instead chose to reunite with his old coach, John Tortorella, in New York.

(UPDATE: TSN's Gord Miller has the year-by-year breakdown of Richards's contract with the Rangers, and as expected it is seriously front-loaded.)


Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Five Players In Free Agency; None Named Steven Stamkos

NHL free agency is underway, and while Tampa Bay Lightning fans wait for GM Steve Yzerman to hash out a new contract for restricted free agent Steven Stamkos, the team has made a few smaller moves.

The Lightning will have a new backup goaltender next season, as Mike Smith has left for Phoenix and Mathieu Garon has been signed to a two-year deal worth an estimated $2.6 million. Garon started 29 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and appeared in a total of 36, posting 10 wins (three by shutout), a 2.72 goals-against average and a save percentage of .901. Garon was also picked up late in the 2008-09 season by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he was Marc-Andre Fleury's backup on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. It's a nice value pickup for a goalie who should be capable enough to allow Guy Boucher to rest 42-year-old starter Dwayne Roloson more often.

Defenseman Matt Gilroy has agreed to a one-year deal with the Lightning. Gilroy will begin his third NHL season after a college career at Boston University, where he won the 2009 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA. He played the last two seasons with the New York Rangers, appearing in 127 games. Gilroy can hopefully fill the Lightning's need for a fleeter defenseman, and his right-handed shot may be useful on the power play.

The Lightning's first-round pick in 2010, Brett Connolly, has also signed a three-year entry-level contract. Connolly has played four seasons in junior hockey for Prince George in the Western Hockey League. After the Lightning picked him sixth overall last year, Connolly scored 46 goals and 73 points in 59 games. As a 16-year-old in 2008-09, he scored 30 goals for Prince George, the first 16-year-old rookie to hit the 30-goal mark in the WHL in over a decade.

Yzerman also signed two players to two-way contracts, with both expected to play on the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. Michel Ouellet should be familiar to Lightning fans; he played for the NHL club in 2007-08, scoring 17 goals. Ouellet spent the last two seasons playing in Germany and Switzerland. Also likely headed to Norfolk is J.T. Wyman, who played for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs last season.

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