Holmqvist Jumps to SEL
The Lightning’s top defensive prospect, Andreas Holmqvist, will finally make the jump to the Swedish Elite League next season. He has signed a contract with Linköping. A second round pick in 2001 and part of the Adrian Aucoin-to-NYI deal, Holmqvist has been playing for Hammarby in the SEL2 the last two seasons. Before suffering a serious wrist injury this season, he accumulated 24 points (11-13-24) in 42 games. He was +15 and was showing more of a consistent physical side, earning 97 PIM. After successful wrist surgery in March, which repaired multiple severed tendons and nerves, Holmqvist now may be back in action as early as Christmas. He was originally thought to be out for up to a year.
Name: Femenella, Arthur. Major: Undecided
2001 sixth round pick Arthur Femenella has not yet decided if he will return to Sioux City of the USHL to help the Musketeers defend their Clark Cup title. He is currently entertaining scholarship offers from three NCAA schools. The six-foot-seven defenseman notched one goal and 10 assists in 56 regular season games this year, along with 215 PIM. He contributed a goal and an assist during the Musketeer’s 12 game playoff run to the USHL Championship.
Clock Ticking on Norrena
The Lightning are quickly trying to sign 2002 seventh rounder and potential back-up goalie to Nikolai Khabibulin this season, Fredrik Norrena. A quick, aggressive goalie, Norrena was expected to give recently signed Kevin Hodson some much needed competition for the position. However, contract negotiations are not going the Lightning’s way. According to the Swedish newspaper Götenborgs-Posten, Norrena is not satisfied with the contract offer he received from Tampa, and has called for a better deal through his agent. If he is not signed by Monday’s deadline, Norrena, who was called Tampa’s most important pick of the second day of the draft – a pick that was acquired when the underrated Josef Boumedienne was sent to Ottawa, will join Västra Frölunda of the Swedish Elite League. The 28-year-old played last season for TPS in Finland.
Should They Stay or Should They Go?
Tampa Bay said good-bye to 1997 second round pick Kyle Kos and 2000 ninth round pick Thomas Ziegler when the Lightning did not give the two restricted free agents qualifying offers. Kos, a six-foot-three defenseman, managed 13 points (5-8-13) in 38 games for Pensacola of the ECHL and a goal in nine games for Springfield this past season. Ziegler, a defensive center, returned to his native Switzerland in the fall after three games with Springfield (0-1-1). He recorded eight points (3-5-8) in 25 games for Bern upon returning home. Kos and Ziegler weren’t the only ones sent packing. The Lightning had earlier declined picking up an option on ECHL winger Gaeton Royer. Pensacola defenseman-turned-forward Mikko Kuparinen (who left the Ice-Pilots to return to Europe in mid-season) and Springfield’s team MVP and goaltender Dieter Kochan were not offered new contracts, making them unrestricted free agents. Although he provided a good story when he was plucked out of the UHL and thrown in net vs. the Dallas Stars two years ago, Kochan failed in his attempt to secure the back-up goaltender spot in Tampa in a late-season audition. Up-and-down prospect Evgeny Konstantinov will now take over Tampa’s goaltender spot in Springfield.
The Lightning did give qualifying offers to prospects Gordie Dwyer, Mathieu Biron, and Matt Elich. Defenseman Mike Jones, who lost virtually the whole year to two heel injuries, was also given a qualifying offer and retained. He played six games for Pensacola at the end of the year, netting three points (2-1-3). All are expected to contribute on some level to Springfield next season as part of Tampa GM Jay Feaster’s promise to give the Falcons more of a veteran influence. Ryan Tobler has already been retained in that regard. Recently drafted Ryan Craig and Gerard Dicaire may also see some time in Springfield. No minor league veterans have been added by Feaster from outside the organization.
We Hardly Knew You
Part of the Andrei Zyuzin to NJ trade, restricted free agent Sascha Goc is taking his stick and hockey bag and going home to Germany. Stuck in a numbers game in the Tampa organization, Goc recently signed a two-year deal with Adler Manheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. The Lightning gave Goc his standard qualifying offer prior to July 1st, so the Bolts maintain his rights. Goc wants a shot at the NHL roster and Tampa wants him as minor league insurance. Barring a trade, Goc would have entered training camp as the 10th defenseman on a depth chart filled with youth. Goc recorded zero points in nine games in Tampa this past year, where he saw some time at forward. He recorded 17 points (3-14-17) in 46 games between the Devil’s affiliate in Albany and the Lightning’s affiliate in Springfield.
The Lightning recently hired former AHL and NHL defenseman Norm MacIver to replace Brad Shaw as the Lightning’s assistant coach in Springfield. A former head coach of the Detroit Vipers, Shaw was moved to the Falcons after the IHL folded. He guided the Vipers to a last-place 23-53-0-6 record in 2000-01. He is hoping to find a head coaching job somewhere in the minors, and no doubt took notice when his long-time contemporary and former partner behind the bench John Torchetti was hired by Panthers GM Rick Dudley to be head coach of the newly formed and renamed San Antonio Rampage. Since Springfield has dual affiliation with Tampa and Phoenix, Phoenix designates the head coach and an assistant; the Lightning the other assistant. Shaw assisted then-head coach Marc Potvin with the Falcons, ironically standing next to MacIver – who was the other assistant – on the bench. MacIver and Potvin did not have their contracts renewed by the Coyotes, who hired Marty McSorley as Springfield’s new head coach. MacIver, undoubtedly in an awkward situation, is back with the team to now be responsible for the Lightning’s prospects. When the Lightning get their own affiliate next year this will be a lot less confusing.
Lightning Lose St. Vincent
No, not that St. Vincent. The Lightning lost one of their key prospect developers and skating instructors when ex-Lightning GM Rick Dudley signed Paul Vincent as a skating and skills instructor and scout for the Panthers. Vincent, who is based in New England, worked extensively with then-Lightning prospects Kyle Freadrich and Paul Mara as well as current prospects Arthur Femenella and Paul Lynch. As late as last summer, Vincent ran skill and skating development camps for Lightning players and prospects. Lightning GM Jay Feaster has made no public comment about replacing Vincent, who was a valuable asset to the organization and will be missed. “Saint” Vincent Lecavalier remains Lightning property … for now. Truthfully, Bud Selig may be Man-of-the-Year before Lecavalier is traded from Tampa.
Steak or Lobster or Both?
Lightning scoring leader Brad Richards is donating his time and money to further the development of minor hockey in Prince Edward Island. Richards recently held the third annual Brad Richards Celebrity Dinner at Northumberland Arena in his hometown of Murray Harbour, P.E.I. Guests included former Rimouski Oceanic and current Lightning teammate Vincent Lecavalier and Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen. The speech-of-the-night went to Oceanic GM and Memorial Cup winning coach Doris Labonté, who gave a warming toast to Richards, his all-everything MVP during the Oceanic’s Memorial Cup run of 2000. Thousands of dollars were raised for the arena and the local minor hockey program through live and silent auctions (key items being a Richards game-worn Oceanic Jersey that went for $550, and a Nikolai Khabibulin donated jersey that went for over $200), admission to the soldout dinner and $5000 donated by Brad himself.
From Siberia to the Sahara
Well, maybe not the Sahara, but it probably feels like it. Recently signed center and top Lightning prospect Alexander Svitov has been sighted training in the Phoenix area this summer with former Omsk teammate and Duck’s prospect Stanislav Chistov, among a host of others. After only playing 12 games last year due to a political struggle, Svitov is trying to find his legs in the squelching Arizona heat – a big transition from Siberia. Svitov’s agent, Jay Grossman, has ties to the Phoenix area. He’s also the agent for Nikolai Khabibulin, who worked out in the Phoenix area during his lengthy holdout.
*Information compiled by Chad Schnarr and Pete Choquette.