Steve Yzerman is really working the European circuit this offsesason

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According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times, the Lightning have emerged as a frontrunner for the services of Swiss star Damien Brunner.

“I would say Tampa is serious about Damien. I would say Damien is serious about Tampa,” said Brunner’s agent, Neil Sheehy. “I know Damien was very, very impressed with Steve Yzerman. They have met and there’s interest on both sides.”

Brunner, 26, has spent the last four years with Zug of the Swiss-A League, scoring an eye-popping 190 points in his last 168 regular season games. At the recently-completed World Hockey Championships, he led the Swiss team in scoring and was named one of Switzerland’s best players of the tournament as selected by coaches (along with Islanders defenseman Mark Streit.)

Described as a “highly-skilled, fleet-skating” winger, Brunner has been released from his contract with Zug and is therefore eligible to sign with any NHL club. It’s believed the Pittsburgh Penguins are also interested in his services.

Yzerman’s interest in Brunner isn’t surprising. He’s been busy scouting the European prospects (and the WHC) and, last week, told the Tampa Tribune he’s interested in bringing Finnish netminder Riku Helenius back to North America. Helenius, a former first-round pick of the Lightning, has spent the last three years playing overseas.

Sheehy said that Brunner will likely sign with an NHL club prior to the draft.