Canada v Sweden: 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship - Day Six

Lightning agree to terms with 2010 1st rounder Brett Connolly

The Lightning started their busy offseason today by agreeing to terms with their sixth overall pick Brett Connolly. Terms have not been released for the entry-level deal, but it’s the first step in what Lightning fans hope will be a long productive career.
The Prince George, BC native was such a highly regarded prospect that he was Central Scouting’s third ranked skater even though he only played in 16 games last season due to a nagging hip injury. He was the first 16-year-old to score 30 goals in the traditionally defensive Western Hockey League in over a decade (Patrick Marleau). Some people thought he was the best pure sniper in the 2010 draft—a draft that included Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, and Jeff Skinner.

This season scouts were reminded of his spectacular talent as he netted 46 goals in 59 games for the Prince George Cougars. Yet another injury (this time a dislocated shoulder) sidelined him for the 2011 playoffs—but the spectacular stats he posted in the regular season proved that he had successfully rebounded from the his troubling hip injury.

Damian Cristodero from the St. Pete Times had the story:

Brett Connolly, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top pick, and No. 6 pick overall, in the 2010 draft, has signed an entry-level contract. The paperwork is not yet registered so it is not “official” (that should happen in July). Connolly could not immediately be reached but his father, Pat, confirmed the signing.

Later Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune confirmed with Connolly himself that he’d signed an entry-level deal.

Looking forward, Connolly has the potential to go with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman as the next generation of hockey stars in Tampa Bay. Next on Steve Yzerman’s offseason “to do” list will be to start making decisions on all of the Lightning free agents. Restricted free agents Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell are both in line for healthy raises. They’ll also have to make decisions on unrestricted free agent playoff performers Dwayne Roloson, Simon Gagne, Sean Bergenheim, Eric Brewer, Mike Smith, and Adam Hall. Tampa Bay is in good shape with their salary cap situation, but they’ll have plenty of work to with their available money.

Steve Yzerman knows things are looking good for his young team:

“We have a good nucleus. We’ve got to make good decisions to try and keep the team at this level or even get better for next year. We have a competitive group of guys and we have a very good coaching staff, so there’s a lot to feel good about.”

The 2010-11 season was a great start for the Steve Yzerman era—but the folks in Tampa view it as just that: a start. Brett Connolly figures to be a piece to help the Lightning build on their Eastern Conference Final appearance. As Yzerman said, they were only a goal away from the Stanley Cup Final this year. If they can make the right moves over the offseason, they should have an opportunity to build on the success over the next few years.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
Leave a comment

For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
Leave a comment

Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.