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Tampa Bay’s goalie search has a decidedly European feel

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are in need of a goalie for next season.

To that end, GM Steve Yzerman is searching high, low and in between for netminding options — a search that has led him to Europe, where a few interesting prospects have emerged.

The Tampa Tribune reports that Yzerman, currently in Finland scouting the World Championships, has expressed interest in bringing back 2006 first-round pick Riku Helenius.

“Helenius had a very good season,” Yzerman said. “We have interest in him returning.”

Helenius, 24, was taken 15th overall by then-GM Jay Feaster but only appeared in one game for the Lightning. He “bolted” (zing!) in 2009 and spent two years playing with Sodertalje of the Swedish Elite League before moving to Jyvaskyla of the Finnish league this year.

He proceeded to lead Jyvaskyla to a championship this season, posting a 1.64 GAA and .936 save percentage in 33 games. In 13 playoff games, he had a 1.73 GAA and .947 save percentage.

The Lightning could also be looking at a European goalie at the draft. They’ll have two first-round picks (10th and 20th overall, pending the result of the remaining conference semifinals) and, according to the Tribune, could set their targets on…

Andrei Vasilevski, a 6-foot-3 Russian who is ranked 21st overall by The Hockey News and 18th by TSN.

6-foot-3 Oscar Dansk, who led Sweden to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships and is ranked 44th overall by The Hockey News and 33rd by TSN.

Tampa Bay scouting director Al Murray says this year’s goalie crop is a good one.

“There are some big kids who are agile and athletic, it’s just they need some refining on their technique in a lot of cases, which is the same with all positions,” Murray said. “But I think, in general, this is a stronger year for goalies.”

Report: Rangers among ‘final two or three teams’ in running to sign Kerfoot

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One of the big issues facing the Rangers this offseason was about depth up the middle.

New York could take a step in addressing that, with a potential solution in college free agent Alex Kerfoot, the former New Jersey Devils draft pick who decided to test the open market.

From the New York Post:

The Rangers are among the final two or three teams under consideration by Harvard free-agent center Alex Kerfoot, The Post has learned.

J.P. Barry, the 23-year-old center’s agent who confirmed the parties’ mutual interest, told The Post that Kerfoot likely would reach a decision no later than Tuesday following a weekend of reflection.

The Rangers traded Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes and lost Oscar Lindberg in the expansion draft, leaving them in a difficult spot at center heading into the summer months.

Now 23 years old, Kerfoot played four years at Harvard University — the same school as Jimmy Vesey, who became a college free agent last summer and signed with the Rangers — and had a terrific senior year. He put up 16 goals and 45 points and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

The Rangers are facing competition to land Kerfoot, who is from Vancouver and played his junior hockey in nearby Coquitlam. The Canucks are reportedly still in consideration, as well.

According to agent J.P. Barry, Kerfoot and the Canucks management group reportedly had a “productive” meeting last week.

Luongo: ‘I haven’t had any issues’ in return from injury

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Roberto Luongo continues preparations for the upcoming season, after an injury cut his 2016-17 campaign short.

Luongo’s last game was on March 2. He didn’t play again after that due to reported aggravation of a previous hip injury that had required surgery.

However, per the Miami Herald on Monday, the 38-year-old netminder has returned to the ice. Luongo then gave a promising update on his status with training camp approaching in a few weeks.

“It’s good to be able to get back to my regular summer training program. This is my second week … everything feels great and I haven’t had any issues. That’s good,” Luongo told the Miami Herald.

“It’s comforting mentally to know I can go through a rigorous workout and go all out and not have any issues nor think about it. That’s a big first step for me after going through the ups-and-downs of having to deal with my issue last year. It’s nice to have that piece of mind.”

Luongo appeared in 40 games for Florida last season. He still has five years remaining on his contract, which carries an annual cap hit of $5.333 million, per CapFriendly. James Reimer, in his first season with the Panthers after signing there for five years and $17 million, played in 43 games with a sound .920 save percentage.

Once heavily relied upon as a workhorse netminder, starting a career high 75 games one year in Vancouver, the reality is Luongo has a lot of mileage on him and is approaching 40 years of age. As he comes back from this latest injury and considering his age, it will be interesting to see exactly how many starts he gets and who will emerge as the No. 1 goalie in Florida over the course of this upcoming season.

“Listen, this has always been his team,” Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas told the Miami Herald. “But everyone these days has to manage time better, not just us. Roberto can’t play 60, 65 games a season any more. Reimer shouldn’t either. It only gets tougher every year.”

Islanders face critical time on and off the ice

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

There is quite a bit on the plate of the New York Islanders. On and off the ice.

That includes steps toward finding a permanent home.

That is especially the case given reports last month that this ongoing arena situation — moving from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center in Brooklyn to possibly being on the move again to another local destination — is apparently a factor in the delay of getting star forward John Tavares signed to a contract extension.

Tavares has one year left on his current six-year, $33 million contract. The face of the franchise since the day he went No. 1 overall to the Islanders in 2009, Tavares is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, provided he doesn’t ink a new contract by then.

Read more: Poll: Will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders?

On the arena front, the Islanders have made their interest in building an arena on land at Belmont Park well-known — a scenario that Tavares believes has “great potential there.” However, it’s been previously outlined that this is a scenario that will still take some time to finalize.

From Newsday Long Island: 

Tavares said he is waiting to see what comes of the Request For Proposals issued July 30 by New York state regarding the Belmont Park development. The Islanders, along with the owners of the Mets and a Madison Square Garden-backed sports arena consortium Oak View Group, are expected to pitch building an arena on the 43-acre lot.

It’s not clear whether the state will select a winner before Tavares would hit unrestricted free agency next July. All bids are due by Sept. 28 and Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency which is handling the RFP, has declined to set a timeline after that.

Of course for Tavares, with an eight-year deal in the offing, he would love to know where he’ll be playing.

Contract negotiations with star players — especially one that is moving closer toward unrestricted free agency — can provide enough tension for fans. The Islanders are not only facing such a negotiation, but an ongoing arena situation as well, and reports suggest the latter may be complicating the former.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have won only one playoff series in the eight seasons Tavares has been with the club. They missed out on the postseason earlier this spring.

Even with a player like Tavares, the Islanders have yet to truly challenge for top spot in the Eastern Conference. For this upcoming season, head coach Doug Weight put onus on the organization to put their star in a position to win and win right now.

They need to sign their star. They will eventually need to settle their arena situation. And there is added pressure to win as Tavares enters his final year of his contract.
It’s shaping up to be a critical few months for the Islanders.

Blue Jackets sign Boston University product Somerby to entry-level deal

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The Columbus Blue Jackets made a deal Monday, signing defenseman Doyle Somerby.

Originally selected by the New York Islanders, 125th overall in 2012, Somerby played his last four seasons with Boston University. Now 23 years old, Somerby decided to keep his options open following his senior year and test the free agent market last week, prior to inking a two-year entry-level contract with Columbus.

“It almost doesn’t make sense not to talk to everybody,” Somerby’s agent Brett Peterson told the Boston Globe.

“You’re drafted when you’re 17½ with no say who picks you. If you choose to complete your college career, you have that right. That’s just the way the market is. They have a lot of defensive prospects in New York. So that’s how we landed at this.”

And now he’s landed with the Blue Jackets organization, which had a franchise record 2016-17 season and boasts a crop of good, young players, the most notable on the blue line being Seth Jones and Zach Werenski.

Somerby scored five goals and 13 points as a junior at Boston University, marking his most productive collegiate campaign. At 6-foot-5 tall and 223 pounds, he brings size on the blue line but has been regarded as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, and reliable in his own end.

“He’s so difficult to get around,” Boston University associate head coach Steve Greeley told The Daily Free Press. “Below the dots, he’s always pushing … He plays physical, he plays hard and he’s a kid that’s really tough to play against.”

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