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Lightning Summerfest Written by Laci Bloomers - July 29th, 2010

July 29, 2010

The Tampa Bay Lightning reached a cross-roads after the 2009-10 season ended, and fans were unsure where the off-season would take them.  The club's management team is showing their fans where this club is headed as the summer prepares for Free Agency next week.

Last season the Lightning set team records for wins and points, as they have the remarkable distinction of having matched or improved their record in every year of CMHL history.  This year lloked to be a challenge given some of the personnel changes that were expected.

Not surpisingly, Keith Tkachuk, the team's leading scorer last season, is still retiring.  His retirement not only left a big hole in the offense to fill, but also started a stampede of changes for the club.

Four players in the system followed Tkachuk by announcing their retirements.  Martin Skoula and Andre Roy both played larger thanm expected roles with the Lightning last season, and neither are playing in the CMHL this coming year.  Dimitri Vorobiev and Andrew Woznieski announced they were leaving the farm for greener pastures.

As expected, Free Agents Brad Larsen and Manny Legace were told they would not be offered contracts for the coming season.  Somewhat surprisingly, blueline acquisition Henrik Talinder was also cut loose.

The summer started with 8 players not returning to the system, leaving some serous gaps to fill.

The first deal of the off-season saw fan favorite Greg Zanon shipped to Chicago.  The D-man brought veteran blue-liner Brad Stuart to town, along with Jamie McGinn and a 2012 3rd.  Shortly after, another untouchable from last season, center Dave Steckel, was shipped off to Raleigh along with prospect Tyson Barrie and a pair of 2010 picks.  In return, the club received Top 6 forward Ryan Malone along with prospect Eric Gelinas.

Centers Luke Lynes and Andrew Murray, who played with the Lightning last season for a spell, headed to Pittsburgh to replenisjh the blue-line on the farm.  With Vorobiev and Wozniezski retiring, and Mark Giordano being promoted, there were some holes on thed blue line in Macon.  Grant Lewis, Drew Bagnall and Phil Oreskovic came from the Pens' system to replenish the spots. 

McGinn's stay was short, as he and a pair of picks were shipped to Vancouver for D-man Kurtis Foster.  Foster will join returning UFA Brian Rafalski and Giordano on the power play this coming season.

Freddie Sjostrom, who spent the majority of last season in Macon, went to the Islanders for center Eric Belanger.  Center Kyle Wellwood arrived with picks from the Islanders, and then the clubs connected again today as Top 6 forward Alex Ponikarovski and back-up goaltender Ty Conklin arrived for Paul Ranger and Curtis McIlhinney.

With Free Agency soon here, the club still has a couple of areas to improve on.  Another scoring center would not hurt, unless Wellwood surprises with his offensive skills this season.  As well, the team either needs a winger or a D-man, depending on how the use Jim Vandermeer.

All in all, there are not a lot of holes to fill in the line-up, and the coming season looks like there is hope after all.

Ponikarovski - Antropov - Tanguay
Malone - Belanger - Moss
Clowe - Wellwood - Comeau
Nystrom - Primeau - Vandermeer

Rafalski -Stuart
Foster - Giordano
Murray - Pardy/Alzner


- Laci Bloomers reporting -



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