Tampa Bay Lightning look to expand hockey great Phil Esposito's role

espo.jpgNow, I don’t live in Canada so I might not be fully qualified to lead this discussion but that being said, there are two championship hockey bumper stickers. In one corner is the much-loved “My other car is a Zamboni.” Its opposition is the classic Boston Bruins sticker that read, “Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound.”

If I were to give a front office gold star to any one organization this summer, it would go to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their shiny new GM Steve Yzerman. They keep making refreshingly competent decisions as they rapidly rebuild the moribund franchise – and while details are a bit scarce – reports indicate that they’ll try to give beloved hockey figure Phil Esposito a more prominent role with the team.

TampaBay.com’s Damian Cristodero has more.

There were no specifics given by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, just an acknowledgment Lightning founder Phil Esposito might be in line for an expanded role with the organization. And while Vinik said the final decision will be up to new CEO Tod Leiweke, Vinik sounded as if Esposito could be an asset on the community and marketing side of the organization.

“We want him involved with this team,” Vinik said this week. “We want him out in the community. We want him involved with us. He’s a great ideas person.”

Expanding Esposito’s role from his long-time gig as an analyst on radio broadcasts of Lightning home games, a job for which he has said he never has signed a contract, makes sense for an organization ready to embrace its past and make a better effort to market the team both in the St. Pete Times Forum and Tampa Bay area.

Forgive me for gushing about the job Tampa Bay is doing right now, but they keep making shrewd moves. Embracing hockey icons is a sign that an organization is savvy to public relations and the game’s rich history. Just look at the difference with the Chicago Blackhawks; in the same time that the team went from the hockey basement to its upper ranks, they also honored old greats such as Bobby Orr and Stan Mikita.

Good on Yzerman & Co. for another subtle yet smart move in an impressive initial summer.

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    Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

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    Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

    Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

    Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.

    Report: Blackhawks, Rundblad agree to terminate contract

    DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 09:  David Rundblad #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 9, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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    The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.

    Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.

    It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.

    Sydor named assistant coach of Blues’ AHL affiliate

    OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: Assistant coach Darryl Sydor of the Minnesota Wild looks up at the jumbotron during a video review in a game against the Ottawa Senators, during the NHL home opener to kick off the Senators' 20th anniversary at Scotiabank Place on October 11, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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    Darryl Sydor, after being let go by the Minnesota Wild, has joined the Chicago Wolves as an assistant coach.

    The St. Louis Blues, the parent club of the AHL Wolves, made the announcement Monday. It was also announced that former NHLer Daniel Tkaczuk would join Sydor as an assistant on new head coach Craig Berube’s staff.

    Sydor, who won two Stanley Cups as a defenseman, spent five years as an assistant on Mike Yeo’s staff in Minnesota. His time with the Wild was marred by an arrest in 2015 for drunk driving. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and sought treatment.

    “I know now that alcoholism is a disease and I’m powerless over alcohol,” he told Kamloops This Week in January. “I can never have a drink again and I’m fine with that.”

    Red Wings, DeKeyser settle on six-year, $30 million contract

    Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven
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    Cancel Danny DeKeyser‘s arbitration hearing on Thursday; it won’t be required.

    DeKeyser has agreed on a six-year, $30 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings. The 26-year-old defenseman is now locked up through 2021-22.

    Next up for GM Ken Holland is goalie Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing tomorrow. That hearing, which came at the club’s request, may actually be necessary.

    DeKeyser’s deal, on the other hand, always seemed like it would be the easier of the two to get done via negotiation.

    “The player and the club both know what the range would be on a one-year deal,” Holland said recently, per the Detroit Free Press. “We continue to have conversation on a longer-term deal. I’m comfortable we can avoid the process. Danny is Detroit born, he’s happy with his role, happy to be a Red Wing. We are happy with his play.”

    DeKeyser had eight goals and 12 assists in 78 games last season, while logging an average ice time of 21:48. As an NHLer, he’s proven why he was such a highly sought-after college free agent, and his new contract reflects that.