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Lightning notebook: Day 1 of 3-on-3 tournament

Center Mitchell Stephens was one of four players to score at least four goals in the tournament.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Center Mitchell Stephens was one of four players to score at least four goals in the tournament.

Through the first day of the Lightning Development Camp’s 3-on-3 tournament, the points leader wasn’t the popular offseason acquisition, but a 2015 draftee entering his third year with the team.

Center Mitchell Stephens, whom Tampa Bay selected 33rd overall in the 2015 entry draft, was one of four players to score at least four goals in the tournament. Playing for Team Andreychuk, Stephens pitched in three assists to notch a tournament-high seven points. But despite the efforts of Stephens and defenceman Nick Perbix (four goals and a tournament-best 57.1 percent shooting percentage), Andreychuk went 1-3 on day one, including a shootout loss.

Meanwhile, defenceman Mikhail Sergachev — acquired through the trade that sent forward Jonathan Drouin to Montreal — was the main attraction for fans in attendance and seemed to live up to the high expectations placed upon him. Sergachev, who made four NHL appearances last year for the Canadiens and won the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman in 2016, led all players with five goals on 10 shots. He also added an assist as Team Lecavalier posted a 2-2 record with two shootout defeats.

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Sammy Walker making up for small stature

Seventh-round C Sammy Walker — listed at 5-foot-10 and 142 lbs — is the smallest prospect at the Lightning’s camp, but then again, being the smallest on the ice is nothing new to him.

“I’ve always been one of the littler guys, so I’ve just always had to learn to keep my feet moving,” Walker said. “You’ve always got to be moving. Against this level of players that’s especially true, but I’ve come up against bigger players before and I’ve always had to do that. My speed, quick hands and hockey sense are definitely what I see as my advantages, and I can kind of use them to make up for my size.”

Walker spent last year at Edina High School in Minnesota, where he notched up 47 points in 25 games, and will either return to Edina next year or play with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars before starting at the University of Minnesota in 2018. Walker, whose older brothers Jack and Ben both decided not to enter college and instead played for the WHL’s Victoria Royals, said he always had his mind set on playing for the Golden Gophers. …

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Cole Guttman attempts to build on opening USHL campaign

Cole Guttman posted a shooting percentage of 23.5 last year with Dubuque, the best mark for any USHL player who took 40 or more shots.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Cole Guttman posted a shooting percentage of 23.5 last year with Dubuque, the best mark for any USHL player who took 40 or more shots.

Sixth-round C Cole Guttman only turned 18 on June 4th, but has already made a serious impact in the USHL. Guttman recorded 27 goals and 27 assists last season for the Dubuque Fighting Saints, finishing in the top 10 in the USHL in both goals as the team's assistant captain. The Lightning camp may be a step up, but Guttman said he was confident he could transition to the higher level of play.

“Just coming into camp, the first skate was definitely a different transition from playing in the USHL,” Guttman said. “Playing with bigger players is a difference but I definitely think I’m transitioning well and as the week went on I should just get more and more comfortable.”

Guttman, originally from Northridge, California, posted a shooting percentage of 23.5% last year with Dubuque on 115 shots, the best mark for any USHL player who took 40 or more shots. However, he said he’s continuing to work on his ability to get shots off in order to score efficiently at the next level. …

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Lightning's Nick Perbix hones his game before heading to the USHL

Elk River High School in Minnesota has produced numerous NHL players over the years, including Wild defenseman Nate Prosser and Sharks defenseman Paul Martin.

St. Cloud State University’s hockey program is even more impressive, with Penguins center Matt Cullen and Oilers left winger Matt Hendricks among the school’s alumni.

Over his four years at Elk River High, defenseman Nick Perbix played 96 games, becoming the team’s captain his senior year. Next year, the Lightning’s 2017 sixth-round pick will head to St. Cloud State. And after that, he’ll try to become the fifth Elk and 32nd Husky to make it to the NHL.

With St. Cloud State less than an hour away from his high school, Perbix said the university — led by two-time conference coach of the year Bob Motzko — was his first choice.

“They have a really good coaching staff — Bob Motzko, he won the World Juniors, so obviously he’s an OK coach,” he said. “It’s close to home, and … they have a great facility, so I just enjoyed it.” …

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Could Lightning land Justin Williams?

Justin Williams celebrates a game-winning goal against the New York Rangers during the Stanley Cup finals in 2014.

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Justin Williams celebrates a game-winning goal against the New York Rangers during the Stanley Cup finals in 2014.

The Lightning enter Saturday's noon opening of free agency hoping to cross off the two main items off its wish list:

A top-four defenseman.

A top-nine wing.

It certainly looks like the Lightning is closing in on veteran defenseman Dan Girardi, 33, the long-time former Ranger in talks with Tampa Bay. But I don't think Tampa Bay is done making moves on its blueline. Not sure Girardi is a guy who upgrades the top-four, and on an expected short-term, relatively inexpensive deal, you have more room to make moves (around $20 million in cap space). You almost have to make a deal, with a glut of eight NHL-ready defensemen (if you include Mikhail Sergachev). And that doesn't take into account if the Lightning is still after Kevin Shattenkirk, a reunion I'm not ready to rule out yet.

So stay tuned on the blueline, there could be more cooking. …

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Lightning reportedly close on deal with Dan Girardi

Dan Girardi, pictured checking the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov, played the last 11 seasons in New York, appearing in 122 career playoff games.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Dan Girardi, pictured checking the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov, played the last 11 seasons in New York, appearing in 122 career playoff games.

The Lightning and veteran defenseman Dan Girardi are in talks, with it appearing likely he'll sign when free agency opens Saturday at noon, the Times has confirmed.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Thursday that a deal between Tampa Bay and Girardi, 33, "seems close, if not done." Agent Mark Guy declined to confirm nor deny the report.

This is the six-day window for teams to court pending unrestricted free agents like Girardi, who was bought out by the Rangers this summer. The Times previously reported the Lightning's interest in Girardi. Would imagine Girardi's deal is on the short-term variety, and relatively inexpensive considering the buyout. …

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Volkov hopes to prove his surprise selection right

Alexander Volkov’s KHL contract expired in the lead-up to the draft, which gives him the freedom to begin playing in North America right away.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Alexander Volkov’s KHL contract expired in the lead-up to the draft, which gives him the freedom to begin playing in North America right away.

RW Alexander Volkov was not a particularly talked-about player in the lead up to the NHL entry draft. Google his name and you won't find a single front page result about a hockey player. A mixed martial artist, a painter basketball player and a tennis player all appear before the Lightning's second-round draft pick.

Lightning fans have become accustomed to seeing the team select players out of Russia, but even among those who've been keeping an eye on Russian prospects, Volkov's selection may have appeared surprising. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, however, had no doubts about the maturity and understanding of the game that the 19-year-old right wing offers.

"I really like his style of play," Yzerman said. "He's a very good skater. He's a good all around player. For a young man, for a teenager, he really understands the game, the position, the defensive responsibilities, what to do with the puck. I was very impressed for a young guy, we're very optimistic." …

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Jeff Vinik contributing $6 million to fund Lightning's practice facility upgrade

The plan will create a brand new locker room and training facilities for the team, an 18,000 square foot addition.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The plan will create a brand new locker room and training facilities for the team, an 18,000 square foot addition.

With free agency beginning Saturday, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will have another selling point in the courting process.

Owner Jeff Vinik is investing $6 million in upgrading the team's practice facility, the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. The plan will include an 18,000 square foot addition, featuring state of the art lockerrooms, training rooms, an expanded player lounge and video room/theater. By comparison, the team's facility at Amalie Arena is 14,500.

They will break ground in September, with the renovations expected to be done by the end of March, president Steve Griggs said.

"We're trying to do everything at the best level possible," Yzerman said. "We want the best players, the best coaches, the best staff. We're demanding of everyone and that comes with our facilities too." …

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Mikhail Sergachev impresses on first day with Lightning

Mikhail Sergachev said he felt comfortable and welcomed in his first day in a Lightning uniform.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Mikhail Sergachev said he felt comfortable and welcomed in his first day in a Lightning uniform.

Mikhail Sergachev said Wednesday was kind of a tough day on the ice.

It was his first time skating in a month, having just arrived in Tampa Tuesday following a family vacation in Cyprus. Plus he had new equipment/skates, etc.

But Sergachev, 19, the prized defense prospect acquired in the Jonathan Drouin blockbuster trade with Montreal, felt comfortable and welcomed in his first day in a Lightning uniform, the second day of the development camp in Brandon.

"It's amazing," Sergachev said. "This team wants me more than Montreal. They want to see me succeed in the NHL and will try to help. That's why I love this team."

RELATED: Is Mikhail Sergachev ready for the NHL?

Sergachev was engaging, funny and candid in his first scrum with the local media. He said he believes he's ready for the NHL, but will have to prove it in training camp like any other prospect. "I'm just like everyone else," he said.

 

Sergachev thinks he's still got work to do in getting faster and stronger, something he learned in the four NHL games he played for Montreal last season.

"I played (late in the season) against Detroit and felt better," he said. "That's going to help."

 

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Lightning re-signs Cory Conacher to two-year deal

Cory Conacher on Wednesday signed a two-year deal with Tampa Bay.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Cory Conacher on Wednesday signed a two-year deal with Tampa Bay.

Cory Conacher and Yanni Gourde formed a dynamic duo in AHL Syracuse's Calder Cup playoff run this spring.

The two forwards hope that chemistry carries over with the Lightning this season.

Two days after Gourde signed a two-year, one-way deal, Conacher signed a two-year deal of his own with Tampa Bay Wednesday. Conacher's is a one-way the first season, a two-way the second, with a $650,000 annual NHL contract.

Conacher spent most of last season in Syracuse despite signing a one-way deal in July. While the Lightning made no guarantees on a roster spot, they told Conacher there's open spots at forward. Conacher, an unrestricted free agent, said he received interest from other teams, both NHL and overseas, but preferred to stay inn Tampa Bay, where he started his career in 2012-13.

"They just want me to come hungry and play the way I did at the end of the season," Conacher said. "And things will fall into place. You've got to earn your spot." …

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Lightning's Mathieu Joseph on the rise at development camp

Mathieu Joseph checks Carolina's Jake Bean during a preseason game in September in Tampa.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Mathieu Joseph checks Carolina's Jake Bean during a preseason game in September in Tampa.

BRANDON — The last 12 months have been quite the ride for Mathieu Joseph.

The 20-year-old forward just finished his fourth season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. His experience showed, as he ranked in the league’s top 20 in goals (36) and assists (44).

In the World Junior Championship, the Chambly, Quebec, native took home a silver medal, with a one-goal, four-assist performance over seven games for Canada.

Joseph helped the Sea Dogs win their third President Cup, scoring two goals and notching eight assists against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Saint John would advance to the semifinal round of the Memorial Cup, with Joseph contributing two goals and three assists along the way.

And last week, the Coyotes picked Joseph’s brother — Pierre-Olivier, a 17-year-old defenseman — 23rd overall in the NHL draft.

Now in his third Lightning Development Camp at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, the 2015 draftee is ready to take the next step in his career.

“I’ve been here the last two years, so I’m kind of adapting now to the speed of the game,” he said. “There’s always good players here, so it’s pretty fun.” …

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Dan Girardi the latest defenseman on Lightning radar

Dan Girardi, 33, spent the last 11 seasons with the Rangers, who bought him out this summer.

AP photo

Dan Girardi, 33, spent the last 11 seasons with the Rangers, who bought him out this summer.

Veteran Dan Girardi is the latest pending free agent defenseman to draw interest from the Lightning, the Times has confirmed.

Girardi. 33, spent the last 11 seasons with the Rangers, who bought him out this summer. He's a 6-foot-1, right-shot defenseman, which is a need, and would likely come relatively cheap, as the Rangers are paying him $1.1 million each of the next six years. Girardi has 122 games of playoff experience, and is still looking for an elusive Stanley Cup.

But Girardi struggled last season, including racking up a career-low 15 points. He's been banged up the last couple of years, including missing a month late in the season recovering from a right ankle wound suffered blocking a shot. Girardi played in 759 of a possible 764 games (including playoffs) from 2006 to 2014-15, no doubt taking its toll. (Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman was first to report Tampa Bay's rumored interest in Girardi.) Girardi is former Rangers teammates with Lightning's Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan. …

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Top Lightning pick Cal Foote: It's 'starting to feel more real'

Cal Foote was picked 14th overall by the Lightning in the NHL Draft.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Cal Foote was picked 14th overall by the Lightning in the NHL Draft.

For Lightning first round pick Cal Foote, this is where it started to sink in.

Foote, 18, picked 14th overall Friday in the NHL Draft, put on a Lightning jersey and practiced during the opening day of the development camp at the Ice Sports Forum. He met with staff members and executives, went through testing and drills.

"It feels more and more real every day," Foote said. "It definitely feels more real now that I’m here."

 

Foote, son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, said he'd like to work on his core strength this summer before his first NHL training camp. He also needs to work on his foot speed, which is tough with size 16s.

Foote will always hear comparisons to his dad, a mean, two-time Stanley Cup champion who racked up 1,500 penalties. But he shrugged it off.

"I think we're totally different players," Foote said. "The game has changed. I feel like I'm more of a modern defenseman, two-way."

 

Recently-acquired Mikhail Sergachev and second-round pick Alexander Volkov weren't here today, but are expected to participte Wednesday when the camp resumes. First practice is at 9:45 a.m. It's free and open to the public.

Stay tuned for more.

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Scotty Bowman says 'it's about time' Andreychuk got HOF call

Scotty Bowman drafted Dave Andreychuk in the first round (16th overall) in 1982 and coached him the first five seasons of his career.

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Scotty Bowman drafted Dave Andreychuk in the first round (16th overall) in 1982 and coached him the first five seasons of his career.

For Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, Dave Andreychuk finally being part of a Hall of Fame class is especially gratifying.

Bowman drafted Andreychuk in the first round (16th overall) in 1982, coaching the 6-foot-4 power forward the first five seasons of his career. And now Bowman, who is part of the HOF selection committee, got to see it through that Andreychuk is going to the Hall of Fame.

"I just think it's about time we could do it," Bowman told the Tampa Bay Times Monday. "I just felt it was a travesty if he didn't get in. When you're talking about goal scoring at 600, 19 men have done it and if he's the only guy that wasn't in? Wouldn't that have an awful odor about it?"

RELATED: Dave Andreychuk going into Hall of Fame (w/photo gallery)

Andreychuk scored 640 career goals, and has more power play goals than anyone in NHL history. That included 43 goals as a rookie with Bowman in Buffalo in 1982. Most of Andreychuk's damage was dirty work around the crease. …

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Dave Andreychuk going into Hall of Fame (w/photo gallery)

Dave Andreychuk battles Calgary's Andrew Ference during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Times files (2004)

Dave Andreychuk battles Calgary's Andrew Ference during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Dave Andreychuk said Monday began "business as usual."

He arrived at Amalie Arena at 8:30 a.m., reporting for work in his role as Lightning VP of corporate and community affairs.

"Not knowing that this was the day," he said.

Finally.

For Andreychuk, 53, Monday is a day he'll never forget. The former Lightning captain got the news he'll be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It had been a long wait, Andreychuk eligible for the HOF since 2009.

RELATED: Scotty Bowman says 'it's about time' Andreychuk got HOF call

Andreychuk joins Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi, Danielle Goyette, builders Clare Drake and Jeremy Jacobs in the Hall of Fame class.

"I'm thankful this day came along," Andreychuk said. "For me and my family, whether it was this year or 10 years from now, it didn't matter to us. It's quite an honor."

Andreychuk is certainly deserving, with 640 career goals, and racked up the most power play goals in NHL history. He helped lead the Lightning to its only Stanley Cup in 2004. But having not  heard his name the last eight years, Andreychuk wasn't expecting anything today. …

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