Kukla's Korner

Garon Inked in Tampa

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Lightning have signed goaltender Mathieu Garon to a two-year deal with a $1.3 million cap hit.

Goaltender Mike Smith, now an unrestricted free agent, will likely resume his NHL career elsewhere.

Garon spent the past two seasons in Columbus and has also played for Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Edmonton and Montreal.

Filed in: Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Scattered Thoughts on the Eve of Free Agency: Stamkos, Richards and Much More

Can one’s thoughts be anything but scattered at this time of year?

I mean, hell, just look at Jaromir Jagr, who apparently disappeared off the face of the planet just when everyone was expecting him back in Pittsburgh. (How no one aside from myself has implicated the infamous Deven Dark in his apparent abduction to this point is beyond me. I mean, have you heard anything from “The NHL Guardians” since All-Star Weekend? Well… Have you?)

Aside from that, here’s a look at what else is burning up my remaining brain cells at the moment:

***I suppose I ought to start in my own neck of the woods and right about now, there’s no appropriate topic to kick that off other than what the wittiest members of the Twitterverse have dubbed either #Stamkosteria or #Stammergeddon. That Steven Stamkos has yet to be inked to a new deal by the Tampa Bay Lightning, with restricted free agency, oh, a little over 15 hours away, is neither cause for a panic attack nor a sure sign of the end of the world (chew on that, Mayans pointing to the NHL12 cover). However, with each passing minute (okay, maybe with each passing hour?) the situation becomes a little bit less comfortable, I guess we can say, for everyone involved.

All I can add to whatever you’ve read


everywhere else is that I’ve crunched numbers from every angle and no matter what, at this point, I see the Lightning as having to make some significant residual move or another after Stamkos is retained (and I most certainly do believe that, one way or another, that will still be the end result) not so much to fit everyone in under next season’s salary cap but to do so with some flexibility for both the long and the short term.

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Filed in: Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

A Sensible Approach to the Silliest of Seasons

As the start of free agency nears, hockey folks everywhere will scour the rosters of all 30 NHL clubs, trying to identify potential holes to be filled or positions in need of an upgrade through the madness that begins on July 1st. It’s only natural – and it’s a fun part of being a hockey fan.

Who do I want my team to target? Which players make sense? How can my team get better in a hurry?

If and when any of the prognostications yielded through that process become reality, Average Joe Fan Guy gets to channel his inner Barry Horowitz, pat himself on the back and incense his pals with the ever-gratifying “Told ya so!”

Unfortunately, more often than not, from the fan’s perspective, free agency wish lists and the off-the-wall lineup projections that come with them lead to eventual disappointment. You can plug holes in your lineup in EA’s annual NHL video game release at the touch of a button. In the real world, getting Brad Richards to sign in Phoenix isn’t quite that easy.

There are some factors that flaw the dream scenario process from the start, of course. Namely, Average Joe Fan Guy tends to forget about the business side of things that makes replacing an exiting veteran with a more cost-efficient youngster and other moves of that nature a necessity. So, when the Sean Bergenheims of the world appear to be on the cusp of leaving a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning, it would be wise to hold off on automatically looking to fill the void with any of the bigger-ticket veteran names that might be out there. Instead, welcome an up-and-comer like Blair Jones, recently re-upped himself here in Tampa, to an expanded role with the big club and hope that he can meet the demands of that challenge.

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Filed in: Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Lightning Ink Gervais

Defenseman Bruno Gervais, acquired by Tampa Bay from the New York Islanders for future considerations during day two of the NHL Entry Draft this past weekend, has been signed to a one-year, one-way contract by the Lightning, the club announced today.

Terms of the deal were not made available in the release but RDS’ Renaud Lavoie reported his compensation at $550,000 via Twitter.

Earlier in the day, the Bolts extended qualifying offers to forwards Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell and Johan Harju, defenseman Scott Jackson and goaltender Riku Helenius (in addition to Gervais) and elected not to qualify eight others. Of those now set to go to unrestricted free agency Friday, the most notable was defenseman Mike Lundin and with Gervais now under contract, his return to Tampa Bay appears unlikely.

In six seasons with the Islanders, Gervais has tallied 9 goals and 59 assists for 68 points in 331 games.

More in a bit…

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Filed in: New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Scratch Brewer Off the UFA List: Where Does That Leave Tampa Bay?

If a reported $3.85 million in averaged annual salary is correct, defenseman Eric Brewer’s contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning brings a reduced cap hit to the tune of about $400,000 less than what it was on his previous deal.

And, in a summer with so many contracts needing attention, every penny counts.

First thing’s first. Brewer was a great fit for the Bolts last season and his return is a major positive for the club. His re-signing signals a solid start to the off-season for Steve Yzerman and company.

In short: Task one of many can be crossed off the list.

Ten days ago, we laid out a bottom line scenario piece on what Tampa Bay is facing this off-season, in terms of bringing back their own free agents. With Brewer now inked and with a confirmed high-end salary cap number of $64.3 million next season, when we had previously assumed a $4.5 million annual cap hit for Brewer and banked on an estimated $63.5 million cap ceiling, an updated glimpse at the remaining work to be done is in order.

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Filed in: Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Draft Weekend Brings Hope and Help, Turning One Season Into the Next

The NHL Entry Draft is one of those annual “hope springs eternal” events. If the awards show bids farewell to a season gone by, the selection process for the latest prospect crop marks the league’s transition into next year.

Just like that, every club starts anew.

Just like that, the page is turned for all.

The Boston Bruins reign as Stanley Cup champions has just begun and yet, as of tonight, even they have work to do. 29 other teams are now gunning for what they have. And for some, reshaping their franchises to make a run at hockey’s iconic chalice will start with their first overall selection tonight.

Of course, it’s been said that there aren’t any immediate game-changers to be had among this crop – and certainly not beyond a half-dozen or so prospects atop most draft boards. But the draft itself has become such an integral aspect of building a championship-caliber team, even the late round selections will be a product of weeks and months of internal debate and study on the part of a team’s decision-making hierarchy.

For other clubs, the leap from 2010-11 to 2011-12 will be aided during draft weekend by trade. This year, with the Philadelphia Flyers kicking things off with a pair of earth-rattlers a day in advance, shipping key components Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of town in separate deals yesterday, the expectation is that trade activity in St. Paul could be high. As teams gear up for free agency next week, some will look to get a jump on crazy season by filling holes and altering their salary scales with a deal or two and there is a wealth of big-name talent reportedly on the trade market already.

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Filed in: Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL Entry Draft, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Dad’s Day is Special

Happy Father’s Day to all my fellow dads out there.

Waking up this morning to my two boys climbing all over me and giving me homemade Father’s Day cards (and a new pair of sunglasses, which I will try to spare from suffering the same fate as my last good shades, which now reside permanently at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico) was a happy and simple start to a nice little day we all have planned together.

In a moment, I’ll call my old man, who has always been my biggest influence in life and, as part of that, in hockey, to wish him a nice day. It’s “Pop-Pop” Jordan’s fault, you see, that I got as crazy about our sport as I did as a kid, despite being down here in Florida from age 7 on. My morning knee hockey games with my oldest boy in our play room already remind me of shooting pucks in the driveway with my dad, who even braved manning the pipes on occasion, at a time when I had no idea where any given shot might go (and a few, as I recall, rang off the ol’ “Jason” mask Dad wore, with few complaints…)

That sort of thing goes unappreciated at the time. Later in life, it makes its mark.

After this posts, when my almost 3-year-old talks to his grandfather on the phone and the pride from the other end comes through, I’ll try my best to understand what that means - but will only truly get it, if I am so lucky, many years down the road when I’m at the other end of such a call.

For now, I’ll soak in my two boys today as we venture out for some sun and fun. I know what they mean to me - and there’s just no describing being a dad, other than to say it’s far better than I ever could have imagined and, without a doubt, the most rewarding hat of the many I wear.

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Filed in: Detroit Red Wings, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Change is Inevitable for Tampa Bay This Summer

Decisions, decisions.

For general manager Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning, this summer carries that theme. With no less than 12 expiring contracts set to come off the books, conventional wisdom dictates that this team, which enjoyed so much success in year one under Yzerman and head coach Guy Boucher, could very well look significantly different next season.

That isn’t to say that bringing back a majority of those whose contracts are up is impossible but Yzerman will have to employ a little creative thinking to do so, hope that key free agents aren’t wooed by big-time dollars elsewhere and sell once again what so many bought into this past season – that the group is more important than the individual. That Tampa Bay’s lengthy playoff run that fell a single win short of the Stanley Cup Final is still so fresh in the minds of all involved will only aid the overall cause.

But with so many variables in play, the most likely outcome remains a lineup for the Bolts in 2011-12 that is pointedly altered, as compared to its immediate predecessor. A little number-crunching almost assures as much, if only in thinking that each new contract affects another.

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Filed in: Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Opposing Viewpoints: A Final Look Back at the Boston/Tampa Bay Eastern Conference Final

To put a wrap on a thrilling Eastern Conference Final series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net joins me one last time for our collaborative reflections on what went right for the Bruins, wrong for the Lightning and a little in between.


JJ: Well, Matt, that was some series. It had a little bit of everything, as we seemed to state with each passing game in our Q&As. Before we get cookin’ here, even in what amounts to a losing effort on my side (I left it all on the ice, personally, by the way – don’t know if you noticed), it was a pleasure working with you and I think we did readers at both sites justice in pestering them with our relentless, um, charm. Yeah.

MK: First off, Jon, I want to congratulate myself for predicting the Bruins in 7. I also had Bruins in 7 against Montreal, so if you ignore that I had Philadelphia in 6, I’m on a pretty good roll this postseason.

JJ: Yeah, yeah. I can ignore the Philly bit, if you insist. But let’s not get crazy here, Nostradamus. I had the Lightning in 7 and was a bounce here, a break there (or a sliver of consistency in NHL supplementary discipline, perhaps) away from being the one throwing a parade for myself. Congrats indeed and good luck repeating your performance in the Cup Final, now on to breaking down one hell of a series between Boston and Tampa Bay.

Now then, let’s dig a little deeper into how we thought this thing would go from the start and see how right we actually were:

MK: It’s funny to look back at the pre-series predictions we made and read our comments in retrospect. Obviously, we saw how important Patrice Bergeron really was and how great Tim Thomas could be, even in light of some net-crashing by Tampa Bay. That the Bruins top four on D played its best when the chips were down was something else I wrote about heading into this series.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

Lightning Season Ends in Boston but 2010-11 Successes Pave the Way for the Future

You’ll hear that they left it all on the ice.

It’s a hockey cliché that is thrown out there, more often than in any other situation, when a team falls short of accomplishing a task at hand.

But Sean Bergenheim left a groin out there in warmups.

Dwayne Roloson left every ounce of energy left in his 41-year-old body.

Steven Stamkos left blood – and half a nose.

And we’ll hear, in the coming days, about several others that have been hobbled since the playoffs began, leaving body parts and pain thresholds behind long ago.

The Tampa Bay Lightning literally gave everything they had to give this season and, specifically, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Friday night, falling to the Boston Bruins in a 1-0 instant classic.

But there isn’t much about this end result or the 2010-11 season, in general, that can be considered a failure.

How far this team has come in such a short period of time is immeasurable, in the grand scheme of things.

This year was supposed to be about the establishment of stability, the employment of a new atmosphere and attitude and a new era of on-ice proficiency.

Check, check, check.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink

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