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Forward Cory Conacher returns to the Lightning after playing in Swiss League

Forward Cory Conacher, who had his greatest success with the Tampa Bay Lightning, is coming home.

Conacher, 26, is returning to the Lightning. In 2012-2013, he had nine goals and 15 assists for the Bolts. Later that season, he was traded (with a No. 4 draft pick) for goaltender Ben Bishop.

Conacher played 79 games for Ottawa in 2013-2014 and 15 for the Islanders in 2024-2015. Last year, Conacher played with Bern SC of the Swiss-A league.

The 5-foot-8, 182-pound forward has appeared in 166 career American Hockey League games, recording 67 goals and 153 points. Conacher set career highs during the 2011-12 AHL season, posting 39 goals and 80 points in 75 games with the Norfolk Admirals, the Lightning’s top affiliate. That season, Conacher led the Admirals to a Calder Cup Championship and was awarded the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s regular season MVP.

Conacher went undrafted and originally signed as a free agent with the Bolts on March 3, 2012.

Lightning stay busy, sign Victor Hedman to new eight-year contract extension

Why doesn’t the NHL just hand Steve Yzerman the General Manager of the Year award for next year and be done with it?

The amazing summer of the Tampa Bay Lightning continued Friday when defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year contract extension for $63, two days after team captain Steve Stamkos did the same.

Also in this summer, Yzerman has reached a peace with forward Jonathan Drouin, decided not to trade Ben Bishop for now and bought out unpopular defenseman Matt Carle. Also Friday, the team re-signed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Victor Hedman to an eight-year contract extension. Victor has matured into one of the top defensemen in the NHL and coming off the recent re-signing of our captain, Steven Stamkos,  we’ve secured another extremely important member of our team,” Yzerman said upon making the announcement. “I’m very appreciative of both Victor and Peter Wallen’s efforts to reach an agreement with us at this time.”

Hedman, 25, played in 78 games with the Lightning last season, collecting 10 goals and 47 points to go along with a plus-21 rating and 46 penalty minutes. He led all Lightning defensemen for goals, assists (37), points and plus/minus. Hedman led all Lightning skaters for plus/minus, average time on ice (23:03), takeaways (48) and blocked shots (132). His plus-21 rating was a new career high.

“For me, it was never a doubt,” Hedman said. “Staying in Tampa was my No. 1 priority. For me, Stammer, we want to win together. That was obviously a big goal, to go all the way together with Tampa.”

Hedman currently ranks third all-time in franchise history among defensemen for career points with 229, behind Dan Boyle (253) and Pavel Kubina (243). He is also second all-time among defensemen for assists (180) and fourth for goals (49). Hedman ranks third all-time among Tampa Bay defensemen for games played (470), trailing Kubina (662) and Cory Sarich (490).

The 6-foot-6, 223-pound defenseman also appeared in 17 Stanley Cup playoff games in 2016, posting four goals and 14 points, tied for the team lead with 10 assists. Hedman has played in 65 career NHL playoff games, recording six goals and 37 points to go along with 30 penalty minutes. He has reached the Eastern Conference Final in three of his seven seasons with the Lightning (2011, 2015, 2016). He is the Bolts’ all-time playoff leader for points, goals, assists and plus/minus among defensemen.

 

In the end, it was too hard for Steven Stamkos to leave the Tampa Bay Lightning

His mind wandered, but Steven Stamkos’ heart always remained in Tampa Bay.

Stamkos, who agreed to an eight-year extension for $68 million dollars, surprised a lot of people around the league when he chose to stay.

I felt in my heart that Tampa was always the place I wanted to stay,” Stamkos said. “It was just following your heart and being loyal to the organization that brought me up and made me the player and person that I am today.”

Stamkos, 26, admitted he could have made more money by leaving. But that wouldn’t have been a bargain

“I grew up as a kid there,” Stamkos said. “And this team is on the verge of hopefully competing for Stanley Cups for years to come and me being the captain and being a leader… I know the process took a lot longer than maybe both parties would have liked, but in every decision in life you want to make the best decision.

“If we want to stay to together, there’s going to be sacrifices for both sides,” Stamkos said. “I believe the core we have understands that.

“Some people chase the most money possible. I realized the situation. There could have been some money left out there, but for me, that’s not what is was all about. I was comfortable this was something that gave me the best chance to win.”

Stamkos admitted there were days when his mind wandered.

“It was a very tough decision, it truly was,” Stamkos said on a conference call. “I can’t say this past week has been fun. It was pretty stressful, to be honest.”

Lightning hangs onto star center Steven Stamkos with contract extension

Steven Stamkos is staying home.

Stamkos, after a year’s worth of negotiation, after a mountain of rumors as where he might be going and why, has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos’ new contract is worth $68 million over eight years.

“I am excited to move forward with the Lightning today for the next eight years,” said Stamkos. “It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our goal of winning a Stanley Cup.”

Stamkos had met with the Maple Leafs this week in a meeting that included John Tory, Toronto’s mayor, and Michal B. Medine, the CEO of Canadian Tire. Because it was near his hometown, many felt that Stamkos would lean there or to nearby franchises such as Detroit or Buffalo.

But Stamkos, the captain of the Lightning, never stopped using “we” when discussing the Lightning. He has been here his entire career, and barring a trade, he will be here for the biggest portion of it. He is only 26.

“We are very appreciative of the effort and commitment that Steven and his representatives have exhibited in getting a deal done,” general manager Steve Yzerman said upon making the announcement today. “We are excited to have him as a cornerstone part of the team for the next eight years as we continue in the franchise’s ultimate pursuit of winning another Stanley Cup.”

Since the 2008-2009 season, Stamkos is second in goals to only Alex Ovechkin among active players.

Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk awaits call from the Hall of Fame

To appreciate the Leader, you have to remember the leaderless lot that was the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In those days, it was an aimless, clueless bunch. There were those who suggested the Lightning might be the worst franchise in all professional sports, one of those teams that looked to teenagers to lead.

Then came Dave Andreychuk, who had been quite the player himself.

Andreychuk was an important figure in the history of the Lightning, the man who made it possible for John Tortorella and Vinny Lecavalier to coexist. He was crucial as the Bolts turned it around, as Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards and Dan Boyle became great players, as the Lightning turned into a great franchise. It was Andreychuk who set the tone, established the standards.

Now, it should be Andreychuk’s turn again. Once again, he is up for the Hall of Fame. He has been since 2009.

You might think his selection would be automatic. He has the most power play goals in history. He’s 14th overall. But the years go on, and the Leader has not been invited.

Perhaps he will be this year.

It’s about time.

Lightning tries to find scorers of the future in the NHL draft

The Tampa Bay Lightning tried to boost their offense during Saturday’s second day of the NHL draft.

A day after drafting center Brett Howden, the Bolts selected four more centers and two wingers.

Tampa Bay traded minor league defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, a former first-round pick, for the right to take Libor Hajek, a defenseman from the Czech Republic. Later in the second round, the Bolts added left winger Boris Katchouk and right winger Taylor Raddysh.

In Hajek, the Bolts got a defenseman it obviously likes more than DeAngelo. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound defenseman skated in 69 games with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League last season, recording three goals and 26 points to go along with 76 penalty minutes. He led all Saskatoon rookies for points and assists with 23. The Smrcek, Czech Republic native was selected second overall in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

With the 44th overall selection, the Lightning drafted Katchouk. The Waterloo, Ontario native played 63 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last season, posting 24 goals and 51 points to go along with 61 penalty minutes.  Katchouk, 18, ranked fourth on the Greyhounds for points and was fifth among all OHL rookies in scoring. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound forward was tied for the team lead with six goals during the 2016 OHL playoffs.

The Bolts selected Raddysh with the 58th pick in the draft. Raddysh, 18, played in 58 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League last season, recording 24 goals and 73 points to go along with 18 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound forward ranked third on the Otters for scoring. The Caledon, Ontario native opened the 2015-16 season on a nine-game point streak, posting five goals and 14 points over that stretch.

The Lightning selected goaltender Connor Ingram in the third round, 89th overall. Ingram, 19, appeared in 61 games with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, posting a 34-15-9 record to go along with a 2.61 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. The 6-foot, 212-pound goaltender ranked fourth for save percentage and seventh in goals-against average in the WHL. The Imperial, Saskatchewan native also tied for fifth in the WHL in shutouts with four.

With the 118th overall pick in the fourth round, the Lightning selected forward Ross Colton from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL. Colton, 19, skated in 55 games with Cedar Rapids, posting 35 goals and 66 points to go along with 79 penalty minutes. The Robbinsville, New Jersey native ranked second in the USHL in points and goals. The 6-foot, 190-pound forward also  tied for eighth in the league with nine power-play goals.

 The Lightning drafted Christopher Paquette in the fifth round, 148th overall. Paquette, 18, played in 57 games with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, registering five goals and 16 points to go along with 18 penalty minutes. The Kingston, Ontario native has recorded 12 goals and 30 points in 111 career OHL games over two seasons with Niagara. Paquette is a cousin of current Bolt Cedric Paquette.

With the 178th overall selection in the sixth round, the Bolts selected defenseman Oleg Sosunov. The Ryazan, Russia native skated in 39 games with Loko-Yunior of the Russia Jr. 2 league, recording four goals and 12 points to go along with 66 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound defenseman also appeared in three games with Yaroslavl of the Russia Jr. League.

The Lightning selected forward Otto Somppi with the 206th overall pick in the seventh round. Somppi, 18, skated in 59 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, recording 13 goals and 46 points to go along with 25 penalty minutes. The Helsinki, Finland native ranked second on the Mooseheads for goals, assists and points. The 6-foot, 180-pound forward ranked eighth in the QMJHL for points among all rookies.

With their final pick, 208th overall in the seventh round, the Bolts drafted forward Ryan Lohin. The 6-foot, 193-pound forward recorded 23 goals and 57 points in 62 USHL games, splitting time between the Madison Capitols and Waterloo Black Hawks. The Chester, Pennsylvania native tied for eighth in the USHL for points and assists.

There was no new word on either Ben Bishop or Steven Stamkos, although Vancouver might be punished for comments about Stamkos and P.K. Subban of Montreal.

Lightning picks Brett Howden in draft, but talk is about Steven Stamkos

The Tampa Bay Lightning added forward Brett Howden to their depth Friday night.

Why, then, was all of the discussion about forward Steven Stamkos?

After the Detroit Red Wings traded away center Pavel Datsyuk and his $7.5-million contract to Arizona Friday night, speculation began that the Wings could be trying to make room for Stamkos, who became able to talk to teams at midnight.

If Stamkos goes, it will be difficult for the Bolts to replace him.

Howden, who is 18, is years away from showing he is that kind of player. He does carry the reputation as intelligent and a two-way player. The Lightning have two second-round draft picks today.

Calgary trades for a goaltender, but it isn’t Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop

At that price, the Tampa Bay Lightning did just fine in holding onto goaltender Ben Bishop Friday night.

The Calgary Flames, supposedly deep enough in trade talks with the Lightning to be discussing contract renegotiation, instead traded for St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott. They gave their second-round pick, 35th overall, for Elliott and a conditional third in 2018.

Can you imagine if the Lightning had taken the 35th pick for Bishop. Tampa Bay fans would storm Amalie Arena.

The Flames didn’t want to give up their No. 1 pick, spent on Matthew Tkachuk.

Bishop had the better season this year, slightly. He won 35 games (Elliott won 23). He had a .926 save percentage (Elliott was at .930). He had a 2.06 goals against average to Elliott’s 2.06. In other words, Bishop had the edge, but probably not a round’s worth.

Announcers at NBCSN said they still expected Bishop to be traded.

Lightning hopes to find future stars in tonight’s NHL draft

Once, the Tampa Bay Lightning depended on losing to make their drafts better.

These days, they depend on organization.

The Lightning, in the NHL’s final four each of the last two seasons, have become a strong team organizationally the last few seasons under Steve Yzerman. They have finds such as Tyler Johnson, who was undrafted, and Ondrej Palat, who went in the seventh round.

In tonight’s draft, the Bolts pick 27th, 44th and 58th. That means the Lightning won’t get one of the draft’s biggest names, but they should be able to develop players who will help.

Of course, the draft isn’t the most notable thing the Bolts will do this summer. They will also try to retain Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop.

Lightning’s Ben Bishop finishes second in Vezina Trophy voting to Braden Holtby

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop finished second in the voting as the NHL’s best goaltender.

In the end, however, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals simply won too many games.

Holtby won 48 games this season and helped his team to the President’s Cup on his way to winning the Vezina Trophy Wednesday night. Bishop won 35, losing 11 when the Lightning scored two goals or fewer. He led the league in save percentage and in goals against. Bishop led the league in save percentage (. 926) and goals against (2.06).

Holtby received 140 points, including 26 first place votes. Bishop had 51, with two first-place votes. Jonathan Quick of the Kings had 36 points and one first-place vote.

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