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Lightning not among early suitors for Will Butcher

Will Butcher is a strong puck-mover, with 43 points in 37 games for the Pioneers en route to the NCAA Championship.

AP photo

Will Butcher is a strong puck-mover, with 43 points in 37 games for the Pioneers en route to the NCAA Championship.

Hobey Baker-winning defenseman Will Butcher is now an unrestricted free agent, and is likely to draw his share of suitors.

So far, however, the Lightning isn't among them.

Butcher, 22, drafted by the Avalanche in 2013, is expected to chat with several teams, reportedly including the Sabres, Devils and Golden Knights. The left-shot defenseman is a strong puck-mover, with 43 points in 37 games for the Pioneers en route to the NCAA Championship.

Agent Brian Bartlett said Butcher could sign with a team in the next week or so, but Tampa Bay has yet to reach out. Bartlett said Butcher doesn't require a guranteed NHL roster spot, that he'd be open to starting in the AHL if it was the right organization and fit.

"What ends up winning the day, I'm not sure," Bartlett told the Times. "But we have not told teams that if you don't have an NHL spot for him in training camp, don't bother even calling. It's quite the opposite." …

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Nikita Kucherov in a wide-ranging Q&A

Nikita Kucherov recently did a Q&A with Russia's Sovsport.ru, in which he addressed an array of topics.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Nikita Kucherov recently did a Q&A with Russia's Sovsport.ru, in which he addressed an array of topics.

While Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has a tendency to be quiet around the media, he's a Russian with a variety of interests and a passionate hockey mind.

I've experienced it before in many conversations the past few years, and it's part of the All-Star wing that Lightning fans likely would like see more of.

Kucherov, 24, recently did a Q&A with Russia's Sovsport.ru, in which he addressed an array of topics, from his season to the Olympics and even Game of Thrones. A few subjects the Tampa Bay Times had already broached a couple weeks ago in our Kucherov story , specifically how he's put synthetic ice in his garage in a tireless summer workout routine. And, just as importantly, how Kucherov feels good after a meeting with GM Steve Yzerman earlier this summer, putting some harshly-translated comments about the Lightning behind him.

Kucherov was very complimentary of his teammates in this piece, including saying goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy could become the best goalie in the world in a few years. Here's excerpts from Q&A from Sovsport.u, translated to English via Google Translate. …

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Lightning's Erik Condra on impact of late Bryan Murray

Bryan Murray died of colon cancer Saturday at the age of 74.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP

Bryan Murray died of colon cancer Saturday at the age of 74.

For Lightning wing Erik Condra, the recent passing of Bryan Murray hit home.

Murray, who died of colon cancer Saturday at the age of 74, was the general manager of the Ottawa Senators when Condra first broke into the NHL. Condra, 31, was picked in the seventh round by Ottawa in 2008, playing for the Senators from 2010-2015 after a college career at Notre Dame.

"He gave me my first opportunity to play in the NHL," Condra said Tuesday. "He's just a great hockey mind. You always think of hockey, but he was also a great person. He would try to stay away as much as he could (as a GM), but when you're in tough times, he'd come in and make his presence known. He always seemed to be on the players' side, always wanted to hear what you had to say, listen to your opinion. Sometimes, people in that position can be stubborn, but was open and willing to learn." …

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Lightning single game tickets on sale to general public Aug. 11

Victor Hedman (77) and Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrate a goal during a game between the Lightning and Wild in March.

Times files (2017)

Victor Hedman (77) and Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrate a goal during a game between the Lightning and Wild in March.

Single game tickets for 2017-18 Lightning home games go on sale at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 exclusively at www.TampaBayLightning.com/tickets.

Pre-sales for season ticket holders begins Aug. 8, for Lightning Insider Text Club members on Aug. 9 and for CHASE card holders Aug. 10. Fans wishing to join the TEXT CLUB for the pre-sale can do so by messaging BOLTS to 61873.

Tampa Bay hosts the 2018 NHL All-Star Game during the weekend of January 27-29. The event includes the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and the NHL All-Star Game. That ticket info for that weekend will be announced at a later date.

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Nikita Kucherov puts comments in past, eyes Cup run

Nikita Kucherov met in late June with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, discussing some harshly-translated comments he made in the Russian media in late April.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Nikita Kucherov met in late June with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, discussing some harshly-translated comments he made in the Russian media in late April.

There hasn't been much rest in Nikita Kucherov's extended offseason.

After helping lead Russia to a bronze medal at the World Championships in mid-May, Kucherov, 24, returned to Tampa in early June. He's been skating locally five-to-six days a week for more than a month, including Tuesday's solo workout at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.

Kucherov has also privately begun to work out any perceived issues with the Lightning. The All-Star wing met in late June with general manager Steve Yzerman, discussing some harshly-translated comments he made in the Russian media in late April. Kucherov had told Sovetsky Sport, a Russian daily sports newspaper, that some Tampa Bay players "got their money and stopped working." Kucherov also lamented how often the coaching staff changed lines.

"(Kucherov and Yzerman) did have a meeting," Dan Milstein, Kucherov's agent, told The Tampa Bay Times. "They got on the same page. There's no disagreements.

"Everything is good. What was said is done, stays in the past." …

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Lightning mourn loss of inspirational fan Tony Colton

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper  with Tony Colton on Oct. 11 as part of Coop's Catch for Kids charity fishing tournament.

Dirk Shadd | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper with Tony Colton on Oct. 11 as part of Coop's Catch for Kids charity fishing tournament.

Tony Colton may have looked up to the Lightning players he got the chance to befriend the past couple years.

But to them, Colton, 17, was the real inspiration.

Colton's seven-year battle with cancer ended Sunday night when the Sarasota teenager passed away. It hit home for many in the Lightning organization; Colton was a fixture at Amalie Arena in recent seasons, and was an inspiration for Jon Cooper's "Catch for Kids," which raised money for pediatric cancer. Colton courageously created awareness for undifferentiated sarcoma, a rare childhood affliction that starts in the body's soft tissue.

"Tony was a special kid," tweeted Lightning wing Ryan Callahan. "The courage and bravery he showed every day was truly inspiring. You will be greatly missed

Tweeted center Tyler Johnson: "So tough to hear. Tony was a true inspiration and friend. The amount of courage you showed is incredible. Tony, thank you for you being you." …

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Lightning mailbag: 'No issues' with Steven Stamkos recovery

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Florida Panthers center Derek MacKenzie (17) line up for the ceremonial puck drop with Lightning former team captain Vinny Lecavalier and two of his three children, Gabriel and Victoria, at Amalie Arena in Tampa Oct. 18, 2016.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Florida Panthers center Derek MacKenzie (17) line up for the ceremonial puck drop with Lightning former team captain Vinny Lecavalier and two of his three children, Gabriel and Victoria, at Amalie Arena in Tampa Oct. 18, 2016.

It's the dog days of the NHL offseason, with the calendar finally ready to flip to August.

But there's still plenty to talk about, and debate, even with training camps more than a month away.

Enjoyed fielding some of your Lightning-related questions on Twitter (@TBTimes_JSmith), and here's my thoughts on some hot topics:

*How is Steven Stamkos doing?

Captain Steven Stamkos is having one heck of a summer, recently honeymooning with bride Sandra to celebrate last month's wedding in Toronto. He attended Victor Hedman's wedding a couple weeks ago in Sweden.

But Stamkos has also been working hard, continuing his recovery from mid-November knee surgery, which sidelined him for most of last season. GM Steve Yzerman has told me he expects Stamkos to be ready to go for camp and the start of next season. And the few times I've communicated with the Stamkos, he's been positive.

"He's doing great," agent Mark Guy said. "No issues."

The biggest question, however, is what Stamkos we will see on the ice this season? With a surgery of this magnitude, repairing a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, there tends to be some lingering impact. Wild wing Zach Parise, who had the same surgery on the same knee in November 2010, told the Times it took him "a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal." Stamkos was playing arguably the best hockey of his life last season when he got hurt. There's no doubt plenty of eyes will be on the face of the franchise when training camp opens in mid-September.

*Thet Bolts sort of have a logjam on 'D' suddenly. Do you see them trading (Andrej) Sustr in the offseason?

It's possible the Lightning could move a defenseman - like Sustr - before the start of the regular season. Tampa Bay currently has eight NHL-ready defensemen, if you include Mikhail Sergachev, 19, who I believe has a strong chance to make the opening night roster. Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin were re-signed, and need to play. Veteran Dan Girardi, signed to a two-year, $6 million deal, wasn't given that money to be a 7th defenseman; he's been told he'll play qualilty minutes. Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn are obvious regulars. While Yzerman said he can carry eight defensemen, that doesn't seem like the most ideal situation, one or two guys sitting each night. I think the Lightning will let training camp play out, see if Sergachev proves ready, see if everyone stays healthy. In the end, Sustr, who is on a one-year, $1.95 million deal, could be moved.

*Do you think the Lightning signing Jaromir Jagr is a possibility?
 …

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Lightning with six national games this season

The Lightning will have six nationally-televised games this season, two of which coming against the Blackhawks.

All six will be on NBCSN, starting with Oct. 17 at the Devils. There's also Nov. 8 at San Jose, Nov. 22 vs Chicago, Nov. 29 at Boston, Dec. 12 at St. Louis and Jan. 22 at Chicago. Five of the six are road games, the only home one Jan. 22 vs the Blackhawks. Tampa Bay had seven last season, when it waas preseason Stanley Cup favorites.

The Blackhawks lead all teams with 17 nationally-televised games, with the Penguins and Flyers having 16. The Capitals, Red Wings and Bruins have 15. The Predators, which lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh, has seven.

 

 

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Bournival signed to 1-year, 2-way contract

Michael Bournival had two goal and an assist in 19 games with the Lightning last season.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Michael Bournival had two goal and an assist in 19 games with the Lightning last season.

The Lightning signed F Michael Bournival to a one-year, two-way contract Tuesday.

Bournival, 25, played in 19 games last season with the Lightning. He had two goals and an assist. He also played in 38 games with the Syracuse Crunch, scoring nine goals and assisting on 10 others. He had eight goals and 15 points in 22 games for the Crunch during the Calder Cup Playoffs.

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Some thoughts from D Girardi on joining Lightning

New Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Girard. Girardi meets the Tampa Bay media for the first time since signing with the Lightning on July 1 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday morning.

Dirk Shadd | Times

New Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Girard. Girardi meets the Tampa Bay media for the first time since signing with the Lightning on July 1 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday morning.

New Lightning D Dan Girardi met with the Tampa Bay media Monday morning. Here is some of what he said …

On his game after 11 years in New York with the Rangers:

“I feel 100 percent great. I feel hungrier than I have been in any other year. I feel like maybe you’ve been in one place so long you kind of get on cruise control and that might not be great for your career. I feel like what happened to me might have jump-started it.” 

On playing against the Lightning:

“I didn’t like them very much. They’re a fast team and very dynamic. They make you pay for your mistakes. I’m glad to be part of the team and not the enemy.”

  On being bought out by the Rangers after last season:

“Obviously it was a little bit surprising. You hear rumblings here and there throughout the year, but until it actually happens you’re a little bit surprised. It is what it is. It’s way in the past for me, even though it wasn’t that long ago. I’m way past my chapter in New York here. I’m looking forward to my time in Tampa, take advantage of it and do some good things here.” 

On those who say his best days are behind him:  …

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Newest Lightning F Chris Kunitz meets the Tampa Bay media

Dirk Shadd | Times

New Lightning forward Chris Kunitz met with the Tampa Bay media today. Here are some things he had to say about his new team:

On his style of play:

"I try to play a straightforward game, straight lines, try to be physical on the forecheck, turn pucks over, go to the front of the net, go around the battle areas, go through people rather than around them. I'm not a guy who's going to skate through the natural zone and make a bunch of fancy plays, but I'm going to try and be a guy that brings that physical aspect to the game and someone who makes it tough to play against."

On why he signed with the Lightning:

"The Lightning have an unbelievable chance to win a Stanley Cup and that's the reason why we came here."

On how close is this team to winning a Cup:

"I would say it's in those top three or four teams that everybody would agree they're just that close. When healthy, any team with this dynamic of a roster can beat everybody every single night. They have position players who can win a game on their own, like a goaltender or dynamic forwards or D-men who can step up. (We) have to be one of the favorite teams that can go in and try to make a run at it."

On what he expects his role to be: …

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The numbers on Lightning F Tyler Johnson's new contract

Tyler Johnson has a no-trade clause from 2018-2021.

Dirk Shadd | Times

Tyler Johnson has a no-trade clause from 2018-2021.

Here is more information on Lightning F Tyler Johnson’s 7-year, $35 million contract:

Year-by year breakdown: $5 million, $6.75 million, $5.5 million, $3.75 million, $5.5 million, $3.75 million, $4.75 million.

He has a no-trade clause from 2018 to 2021. After that, he has a modified no-trade clause that lists 20 teams he CAN be traded to.

According to CapFriendly.com, the Lightning now has a projected cap space of $8.68 million.

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Arbitration hearing dates set for Johnson and Palat

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18), left, and Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9), right, have arbitration hearings set, but the team can continue to negotiation deals with them until then.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18), left, and Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9), right, have arbitration hearings set, but the team can continue to negotiation deals with them until then.

Tyler Johnson has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 20. Ondrej Palat’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 25.

Both players and the Lightning can negotiate up until the hearing.

Both Johnson and Palat are coming off three-year deals that paid $10 million. Times hockey writer Joe Smith wrote last week that both could receive contracts worth an average of $5 million annually.

The Lightning has $13.6 million of salary cap space to play with heading into this season.

Johnson played in 66 games last season, totaling 45 points on 19 goals and 26 assists.

Palat had 52 points (17 goals/35 assists) in 75 games.

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Lightning Strikes! podcast: Breaking down the Bolts' summer

The Lightning signed four-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz as a free agent.

Getty Images

The Lightning signed four-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz as a free agent.

The offseason has been busy for the Lightning, with the Jonathan Drouin trade, expansion draft and free agent signings of Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz. Joe Smith breaks down all the moves, talks about what lies ahead and answers your questions in our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast. Listen here:

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Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat file for arbitration

Ondrej Palat filed for arbitration by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ondrej Palat filed for arbitration by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline.

As expected, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Jake Dotchin Wednesday to a bargain, two-year deal worth $812,500 annually.

That was the easy part.

The more challenging next step for Tampa Bay is coming to terms with its big name restricted free agents Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Both Johnson and Palat filed for arbitration by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline.

No need to set off any alarms. This move was expected. Johnson and Palat will each have a scheduled arbitration hearing for late July/early August where both their camps and the Lightning propose a contract for next season and argue their case, with an independent arbitrator ruling.

Keep in mind, the Lightning and Palat/Johnson can continue to negotiate until the hearings. It wouldn't be surprising if both Johnson and Palat sign long-term deals before this ever goes to arbitration, like Alex Killorn did last July. It doesn't sound like the parties are far apart. The Lightning has the money - $13.6 million in cap space - and wants to bring both Johnson and Palat back. …

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