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Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer

Joe Smith

Joe Smith became the Tampa Bay Lightning beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times in 2014. He spent the previous six years splitting time covering the Rays, Bucs and Lightning He joined the Times in 2006 after spending two years with the Modesto Bee in California, where he did everything from covering the Single-A Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team and high school football to tackling first-person stories on whitewater rafting and adventure racing. Smith grew up in the Detroit suburbs and attended the University of Michigan, where he covered the football, basketball and hockey teams for the Michigan Daily. He freelanced for the Associated Press and Detroit Free Press before securing internships at Crain's Detroit Business and the Raleigh News & Observer. An avid runner, Smith loves traveling, bowling and singing karaoke.

Phone: (813) 310 9024

Email: joesmith@tampabay.com

Blogs:

Lightning Strikes

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  1. Lightning Strikes! podcast: Breaking down the Bolts' summer

    Blog

    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:...

    The Lightning signed four-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz as a free agent.
  2. Dotchin signed while Lightning's Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat file for salary arbitration

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — As expected, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Jake Dotchin on 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 filed for arbitration by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline.

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

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18), left, and Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) celebrate the Lightning’s second goal during the third period of Wednesday??? ?? ?s (3/1/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat file for arbitration

    Blog

    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....

    Ondrej Palat filed for arbitration by Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline.
  4. Lightning sign Jake Dotchin to two-year deal

    Blog

    As expected, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Jake Dotchin to a two-year deal. The average annual value is $812,500.

    That'll likely be a bargain for Tampa Bay, with Dotchin, 23, balancing out its blueline last season, emerging as a strong partner for Victor Hedman.

    With Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek (one year, $800,000) signed, the Lightning's next order of business is signing RFAs Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Palat filed for arbitration by today's 5 p.m. deadline, not sure yet on Johnson. The Lightning, of course, could still sign both forwards before a hearing, like it did with Alex Killorn last July....

    The Lightning re-signed defenseman Jake Dotchin to a two-year deal.
  5. Lightning close to deal to keep free agent Dotchin

    Sports

    TAMPA — The Lightning is closing in on a two-year, one-way deal with restricted free agent defenseman Jake Dotchin.

    Dotchin, 23, helped balance out the blueline in the second half of last season, playing in his first 35 NHL games. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound, right-shot defenseman provided needed grit and was a strong partner for Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman.

    With Dotchin signing soon, and fellow defenseman Slater Koekkoek signing a one-year, $800,000 deal Monday, the Lightning has two key restricted free agents left: center Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat....

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24:  Andrew Desjardins #11 of the Chicago Blackhawks battles for the puck with Jake Dotchin #59 of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on January 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Lightning defeated the Blackhawks 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) 672872837
  6. Steve Yzerman says young players will get chance to stick with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Whether you're using GM Steve Yzerman's analytics or everyone else's, how recently acquired D Dan Girardi plays this season could go a long way for the Lightning.

    But Girardi, 33, is going to play, likely good minutes. You wouldn't commit $6 million (over two seasons) to a sixth or seventh defenseman.

    That begs the question on what that means for young defensemen such as Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek and Mikhail Sergachev, the prized prospect acquired in the Jonathan Drouin blockbuster?...

    Head shot of Times staffer Joe Smith. Joe Smith is the Tampa Bay Lightning beat writer for the sports department. Staffer mug shot taken in Times studio on Tuesday (06/20/17).
  7. Free agents Dan Girardi, Chris Kunitz add grit to Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    -TAMPA — The Lightning didn't land the top targets on the free agent market Saturday.

    General manager Steve Yzerman said he was never close on snagging defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who signed a "dream" sweetheart deal with his hometown Rangers.

    Wing Justin Williams got nearly as much money ($9 million) as Nikita Kucherov will make the next two seasons with Carolina.

    But Tampa Bay, with needs on the blue line and the wing, feels it is a tougher opponent after signing two gritty veterans, defenseman Dan Girardi (two years, $6 million) and wing Chris Kunitz (one year, $2 million)....

    Chris Kunitz
  8. Lightning sign Chris Kunitz to one-year, $2 million deal

    Blog

    The Lightning filled its need for another top-nine wing, signing veteran Chris Kunitz to a one-year, $2 million deal Saturday.

    Kunitz, 37, is a four-time Stanley Cup winner, providing some experience and grit up front. After averaging 23 goals per season from 2010-2016, Kunitz racked up nine last season, though ranked second in hits with 216 hits. He's now the Lightning's most experienced playoff performer (161 games), followed by recently-acquired defenseman Dan Girardi (122)....

    Chris Kunitz, 37, is a four-time Stanley Cup winner, providing some experience and grit up front.
  9. Ryan Callahan believes hip issue 'completely behind me'

    Blog

    Lightning wing Ryan Callahan said he'll be ready for training camp, confident the hip issues that plagued him all season are "completely behind me."

    "I feel great, no limitations at all," Callahan told the Times Saturday. "I think this is going to be the hungriest I've ever been, excited, ready to go, come in and make an impact."

    Callahan, 32, didn't play much at all last season, limited to 18 games due to a right hip that continued to plague him after last summer's surgery to repair a torn labrum. While Callahan returned in late October, he couldn't shake the lingering soreness....

  10. Lightning signs Dan Girardi to two-year, $6 million deal

    Blog

    The Lightning didn't get the big fish on the free agent market, with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk signing with the Rangers, wing Justin Williams with the Hurricanes.

    But Tampa Bay did get - at least so far - veteran right-shot defenseman Dan Girardi. Girardi, 33, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal Saturday, was pumped to start a "new chapter" with the Lightning.

    And it sounds like Girardi will play a key role on the blueline....

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the most coveted players in free agency.
  11. What would Lightning get in Dan Girardi?

    Blog

    For all of what we don't know yet - whether the Lightning will snag Kevin Shattenkirk or Justin Williams - it does sound like Tampa Bay may acquire defenseman Dan Girardi.

    Girardi, 33, who was bought out by the Rangers, is reportedly expected to sign with Tampa Bay today. Not sure on how much, or for how long, though would think it's a short-term deal.

    The veteran is coming off a down year, struggling in most analytic metrics, and a career-low 15 points. Girardi has been banged up, though, the past two seasons, including missing a month late in the season recovering from a right ankle wound suffered blocking a shot. The fact Girardi played in 759 of possible 764 games (including playoffs) from 2006-2014-15 no doubt took its toll....

    Dan Girardi, who was bought out by the Rangers, is expected to sign with Tampa Bay today.
  12. Names for Lightning fans to watch as NHL free agency opens Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — The Lightning enters today's noon opening of free agency hoping to cross off the two main items on its wish list:

    A top-four defenseman.

    A top-nine wing.

    It looks like the Lightning could fill both needs with a splash, as it is in the running for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and wing Justin Williams. ...

    The Lightning were among the first teams to show interest in defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk this week. [AP photo]
  13. Could Lightning land Justin Williams?

    Blog

    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....

    Justin Williams celebrates a game-winning goal against the New York Rangers during the Stanley Cup finals in 2014.
  14. Lightning reportedly close on deal with Dan Girardi

    Blog

    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....

    Dan Girardi, pictured checking the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov, played the last 11 seasons in New York, appearing in 122 career playoff games.
  15. Jeff Vinik contributing $6 million to fund Lightning's practice facility upgrade

    Blog

    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....

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