Another former Bolt heading to court for bad behavior (Bygone Bolts)

Just remember that sports stars never were and never will be all upright citizens. They are human and are fallible.

Rudy Poeschek played for the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1993-1997 as an enforcer racking up about 400 penalty minutes, six goals and 21 points over the course of 213 games. He found trouble off the ice through the years, and his latest charge is for assault, dangerous driving and driving while prohibited in his hometown of Kamloops, B.C., according to Kamloops This Week. The paper went on to note that the 47-year-old hasn’t appeared in court yet and has had a history of run-ins with the law.

Probably the most bizarre was in 2005 when he took his 1998 Lexus sports utility vehicle through his neighbors’ lawns while his 5-year-old daughter was in the car. The day ended with him getting shot by a Taser gun and a trip to the hospital for head injuries from the car crash, according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times.

Here’s the odd joyride from the St. Pete Times in 2005:

He and his daughter got out of the vehicle and a neighbor took the girl home to her mother, Poeschek’s wife, Heather.

When police came a while later looking for Poeschek, he wasn’t home and couldn’t be found, officials said.

He turned up 90 minutes later. A neighbor called deputies and said Poeschek was hiding in the neighbor’s garage.

When officers went there to arrest Poeschek, he bolted.

He dashed twice around a pond, with deputies in pursuit, before they shot him with a Taser, which stuns people with a powerful electrical charge.

Poeschek was arrested about 11 a.m. and charged with being a habitual traffic offender, driving with a suspended license, resisting arrest without violence, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage and driving with a child not wearing a seat belt, sheriff’s officials said.

He was taken to University Community Hospital in Carrollwood for treatment of head injuries related to the car accident. He was later booked into jail and held in lieu of $2,750 bail.

Authorities said he did not appear intoxicated.

The story went on to document past charges in Tampa for child abuse, false imprisonment (for holding someone against their will), giving false information to get prescription drugs and several charges for driving on a suspended license.

Obviously the enforcer needs help, counseling and you wonder giving his fighting history and apparent need for prescription drugs in one case, how much the retired and current NHL community has reached out to help the guy. You’ve read the stories on the concerns about enforcers mixing prescription drugs with their livelihood, some battling depression from concussions and some dying.

It almost seems like, at least for now, Ryan Malone, has a good support system around him, with enough people around him and enough self-awareness to enter the substance abuse program in the NHL for his drunken driving and cocaine possession charge. Pleading no contest to the charges, he’s allowed to continue his life with a few restrictions. Now that Ryan Malone is on his way to . He’s apparently in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area skating where reports surfaced he was talking with the New York Rangers for a potential try-out deal.

I don’t know how Rudy can or ever pull it together and move on, but he has demons he needs to face if he will. If you want to read an honest take on hockey players dealing with substance abuse and what led to it, read Theo Fluery’s “Playing With Fire” and Nashville Predator Rich Clune’s radio show or Google for one of several interviews he’s given on the topic.  And if you need help, talk to a friend, talk to your parents, talk to a professional. Someone is there to help.

BYGONE BOLTS

  • “The first thing in my mind was, ‘I’m not going to die here right now, so let’s get this thing moving.'” Wishing Cory Sarich a full recovery as the former Bolt and free agent opens up about his slow recovery from a bad bike accident, finger tips bleeding and all. Kristen Odland | Calgary Herald
  • How valuable is former Bolt B.J. Crombeen to the bottom six of the Coyotes and can also-former Bolt Mike Smith recapture his magic? And what of Sam Gagner, he of the Lightning (on paper) for a hot minute? NHL.com’s season preview ponders those questions among others for the ‘Yotes. Davis Harper | NHL
  • “He’s an excellent skater who closes gaps and is able to get quickly to forechecks, and it’s something that was sorely lacking in our game throughout our lineup.” Oilers GM Craig MacTavish on adding former Bolt Benoit Pouliot to the roster. Derek Van Diest | NHL
  • Flyers coach Craig Berube says Vincent Lecavalier needs to change his game a little and needs to “get over” the trade rumors. Sounds like coach talk for “you are so close to being traded but I need to put up with you until you do.”  Randy Miller | The Star-Ledger
  • Jussi Jokinen, he of 2007-2009 seasons, is excited to play with fellow Fin Aleksander Barkov on the Panthers. Steve Werier | Florida Panthers

 

The Four Captains of the Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning ought to have a well-run dressing room this season as the team is sporting three former captains in addition to current captain Steven Stamkos.

Each of the four—Brenden Morrow (Stars), Eric Brewer (Blues), Ryan Callahan (Rangers) and Stamkos (Bolts)—have a certain leadership style thought ought to pull up the fresh-faced players and rookies like Jonathan Drouin. You’d have to think those guys who haven’t had the C stitched on their sweater on the team now, like Brian Boyle, Jason Garrison, alternate captain Matthew Carle and Evgeni Nabokov, who can only add to the accountability on the bench and behind closed doors.

For now, let’s look at the four leadership styles of the carry-over captains on the Bolts:

Eric Brewer | St. Louis Blues 2008-2011

Brewer was an active captain in the midst of being traded to the Lightning, much like Callahan on this list. He didn’t have the warmest welcome in St. Louis being traded for Chris Pronger, sending Pronger and his wife to Edmonton. And some fans in Tampa still give the guy the cold shoulder.

He was frequently injured in St. Louis, which also included a nerve injury, but made it through his four years on a bad team.

Brewer told Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he enjoyed his time as captain:

“I was very, very proud to be named captain of the Blues,” Brewer said. “It was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten. It’s a position I really truly loved … just being a guy that’s relied upon for a variety of different things. It was really quite enjoyable and got a view from the coaches side of things, which helps you understand why things are done a certain way. But at the end of the day, you’re there for the guys, and the guys were wonderful for me. I think for the most part, they thought that I was a guy that was there for them.”

In the same interview, he said he would have loved to have a coffee or beer with fans, the media or other people who held a grudge for him for no reason. I’d love to take him up on that, but it looks like a Starbucks barista is already aware of it.

And in Tampa, without a letter on his chest, Damiam Cristodero, now retired from the Tampa Bay Times, keyed in on his leadership just as Brewer scored his first goal of the season…deep into March:

Brewer is not a rah-rah type but is not afraid to speak up when something needs to be said in the locker room or on the bench. So when Steven Stamkos was elevated to captain after Marty St. Louis was traded to the Rangers at the deadline this month, Brewer, 34, was the natural choice to wear the alternate’s “A” that had been Stamkos’.

“He’s been such an unbelievable leader without (a letter),” coach Jon Cooper said of Brewer, “we would have been remiss not to give him one.”

Ryan Callahan | New York Rangers 2011-2014

Captain Cally was flipped for our captain Martin St. Louis in probably the most polarizing trade in franchise history.

Callahan stepped into the captaincy in an awkward role, taking over for respected but fading Chris Drury, who was bought out by the Rangers.

In what is somewhat of a surreal interview with Dan Rosen in 2011, John Tortorella and Brad Richards talked about how it was grooming Callahan as captain and getting a feel for it. Here’s Callahan via NHL.com:

Callahan described himself as the type of captain that will lead by example and get vocal when he needs to.

“If something needs to be said, then it will be,” Callahan said.

He doesn’t plan on changing anything about his personality or his game, and the Rangers don’t want him to. After all, he earned the captaincy because of who he is now, not who they think he might one day become.
Even the added responsibility of being the captain isn’t all that new to Callahan.
With ex-captain Chris Drury out for most of last season, Tortorella leaned heavily on Callahan and Staal to gauge the pulse of the team. He would ask them their opinion on practice times in order to understand best how the team is feeling, if they needed a rest or if it was the right time to push.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post penned that Callahan was a “perfect captain for first place Rangers” just at the mid-season of Callahan’s first year of captaincy:

“The big thing for me is that I need to have the feel of the team and to make certain that as a group we don’t get too high or too low,” Callahan said. “My preparation is a little bit different in that regard.

“I try to get the feeling in the room on a daily basis of how to approach things. I’m not an especially vocal guy, but if there’s something that needs to be said, I’ll say it. I’ve been comfortable in the role, in interacting with my teammates. It hasn’t at all been a burden.”

Brenden Morrow | Dallas Stars 2006-2013

First of all, having to accept the captaincy to shake things up in Dallas by taking it away from Mike Modano speaks volumes of how much the coaching staff and team thought of Morrow.

The guy is honest, by the accounts of his leadership online. In an interview with Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Morrow told how he adjusted his leadership style a month in with a new team and facing some scoring troubles:

“There’s been some games when I felt more comfortable and been rewarded with more ice time and then there’s been some games when you’re not contributing.

“You want to say the right things, but you kind of got to back it up and some games you’re not backing it up. The more comfortable you feel with your own game, the easier it is to voice that opinion. I haven’t been as vocal here yet. I’m just still trying to find my way a little bit.”

Blackout Dallas said in 2012 he’s a quiet leader, but I don’t believe it, especially considering the evidence the blog listed of Morrow being clear in the media about his team’s performance. A captain like that will be telling the locker room even more than what they tell the cameras (Guys, you all played like shit tonight.). Here’s an anecdote of Morrow not backing down from the cameras, courtesy of Blackout Dallas:

Also, when the Stars played against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs Morrow publicly challenged his teammates, saying too many of them refused to sacrifice their bodies and go to the tough areas of the ice to get the puck or score a goal.  He then scored a power play goal in overtime off a deflected shot to beat Vancouver 1-0, extending the series. The Stars lost the series in seven games but Morrow proved he wasn’t afraid to embrace the moment and handle the pressure that accompanies the playoffs. That’s what type of player Morrow is and why he’s captain of the Dallas Stars.

 

Steven Stamkos | March 2014-Present

Stammer was nearly named captain at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, but with Martin St. Louis playing best man bridesmaid to Vinny Lecavalier over the years, the organization and fans thought it was the best thing to do to give the C to St. Louis. At the time it seemed like a good idea.

The trade happened, ahem, the trade, and Stamkos came back from his leg injury just in time to take over the captaincy from his diminutive leader. Stamkos admitted that the strength wasn’t where it should be but the leg was structurally OK to play. That ought to show that he can carry this team, if that 60-goal season didn’t do it for you.

Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times checked in with the team to see how Stamkos was in a locker room already filled with Brewer, St. Louis, Sami Salo and others who’ve had a long career and it seemed like according to coach Jon Cooper, it’ was and is time for Stamkos to speak up as the de facto leader saying that Stammer “took a backseat to other players that were here” out of respect.

What’s neat about reading about Stammer’s captaincy was that there was a clear evolution of maturity and not the cliche “the captaincy will never change him” line. Here’s Nate Thompson and Victor Hedman telling Smith how Stamkos has changed from a youngster, to an alternate captain to the captain:

Center Nate Thompson, who has played with Stamkos since the 2008 top overall draft pick was 19, said his style has evolved.

“His whole demeanor has changed,” Thompson said. “He holds guys accountable. He plays an all-around game. He’s playing like the man, and he is. There’s a reason why he’s the captain.

“When Stammer speaks, everybody listens.”

Defenseman Victor Hedman said Stamkos is vocal both in the locker room and on the bench and he backs up his talk on the ice. Stamkos has been accountable to the media, almost always sitting at his stall when the locker room opens after big wins and bad losses.

So while Cooper wants fans and media to simmer down now on the expectations, it’s clear that the Bolts locker room have the right voices, brains and brashness to keep the boys in check over a long season.

Jonathan Drouin’s potential competition for Calder (Lightning Links)

As much as Jon Cooper doesn’t want us to, fans and media have high expectations for the team. And as much so for prospect Jonathan Drouin.

Google Jonathan Drouin Calder Trophy and you’ll see all the endless chatter about his chances. I’ll only add to that, but there is some stiff competition for Drouin from players not in the last two draft classes.

Sure, people are going to see how Sam Reinhart, Aaron Ekblad could be shoe-ins, but then you have these guys, too:

Evgeny Kuznetsov

If there’s someone who has more expectations to perform in his first NHL season than Drouin, it’s this 22-year-old Russian. The Washington Capitals watched in anguish as the star spent six years playing in Russia while he could have been playing with Ovechkin, Backstrom and at one time, Semin and Fedorov. The 6-foot-3 winger is pegged to have the skill of Backstrom and a knack for clutch moments. He’s won the KHL championship and won three golds and two silver in international play. However, there is a concern about his injuries. Picked 26th overall 2010.

Jori Lehtera

Here’s another KHLer that seems like it’s just not fair. The Finnish 26-year-old won Olympic bronze in Sochi this year and has put up nearly a point per game in the short KHL seasons. He did play seven games with the Blues AHL affiliate in 2009 showing just how long the organization has been waiting for him to settle in St. Louis. Some sites have him pegged in a fourth-line role under coach Ken Hitchcock, but he’ll likely rise. Picked 65th overall in 2008.

Darnell Nurse

Nephew of Donavon McNabb and son of a retired CFLer, the guy has superior athletic genes. Now that he’s done with junior hockey and won a gold for Canada in the World Junior Championships, it’s time for him to see if he can make the next step. The Oilers have a stronger defensive corps than they had recently, but he could outplay guys competing for the sixth spot, including former Bolt Keith Aulie. Picked 7th overall in 2013.

College players like Kevin Hayes, Johnny Gaudreau and a few others ought to make the race interesting, too.

We’re only 38 days until the first pre-season NHL game for the Bolts to at least satisfy some sort of craving for the rookie race to begin.

LIGHTNING LINKS

Ben Bishop’s truth about injuries (Lightning Links)

It’s clear that even if Ben Bishop was able to make it to the playoffs, the Lightning still wouldn’t have had a chance.

Ben Bishop is continuing his rehab this summer of his right wrist and left elbow and SUN Sports’ Paul Kennedy caught up with him after he took shots for the first time. During the season we’ve seen Bishop sporting a hard cast and drop sticks with his blocker. And when you have screws inserted, that’s pretty serious.

If all of that didn’t convince you that Bishop’s body wasn’t going to survive a playoff round let alone a playoff game, he told Kennedy in his own words:

BISHOP: Begin with this — I had to change the way I played the game. It was injured and taped earlier in the season and then really hurt against Toronto about a month later. From that point on I was wearing a hard cast every night. We (training staff) messed around with it a little bit, but I couldn’t bend the wrist (blocker and stick side). So if I had to cut off the angle with my blocker, that was a problem. Using my stick to bring the puck back to me was different.

KENNEDY: We’re talking about inches in rebounds and fractions of seconds of reaction time by both teams between a save and a goal. This is all happening in the blink of an eye.

BISHOP: To be honest with you, there were probably five to 10 goals I would have saved with a good wrist that ended up in the net. I can think of two right now off the top of my head. Easily 5 to 10. I wasn’t going to say anything, or complain. I just kept doing my best given the circumstances.

Then the elbow dropped, well, dislocated, and all of that work to cope with the wrist injury became another story.

Bishop’s injury shows the double standard when it comes to injuries in pro sports that at times pays off when a player’s emotion fuels him. When a guy has an injury that keeps him out like Steven Stamkos, the mantra is they won’t let him come back until he’s 100 percent. Well, he came back at less than 100 percent and even admitted that. It was close enough for the structure of the injury, but he had a lot to do, even during this offseason, to regain strength. In Bishop’s case, he could still skate and move but for a goalie, if he has to make that much of an adjustment just to still play, he shouldn’t be in.

Players are heralded playing with injuries, especially come playoff time, but scorned when rushed back from one if they sat out too long. Can a goalie at 80 percent health be better than the one at 100 percent health next to him? The gamble worked for the Lightning because Anders Lindback wasn’t even available during a course of  Bishop’s wrist injury, on injured reserve himself until getting recalled from a conditioning stint on March 3, 2013. Instead, Olympic wunderkind Kristers Gudlevskis sat as back-up with Cooper hesitating to start him. Then finally everything went to shit in April when Bishop was out and he had to recall Gudlevskis and give him a start in case he had to play in the playoffs, which he did. And it didn’t matter because of the five players in front of him on the ice.

LIGHTNING LINKS

Speaking of Lindback, he was spotted in his old Lightning gear and jersey during the annual Brynas black-and-white exhibition game…where this Swedish clip translates to “Lindback’s nightmare period” where he lets in five goals in less than 20 minutes. I know it’s an exhibition match, but dude can’t catch a break. Sport Bladet

The ECHL and CHL could merge while the AHL wants to pick up some of the Western Conference teams, according to reports. Puck Daddy takes a look at what all of this could mean, even splitting up the AHL. Harrison Mooney | Puck Daddy

(My two cents: If each NHL team will have one full, non-shared ECHL team, keep in mind that the Hurricanes’ Peter Karmanos owns both the Florida Everblades and Germain Arena.)

Jon Cooper dumps a bucket of ice on him to raise awareness to fight ALS, or Lou Gherig’s Disease. The Ice Bucket Challenge, as it’s called, ends with Cooper challenging Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, director of player development Stacy Roest and Crunch coach Rod Zettler. Former Sabres coach Ron Rolston and former Bolt J.P. Cote challenged Cooper. YouTube

For more, check out Mashable’s explanation of the history of the Ice Bucket Challenge and how it’s used to raise money for ALS research. Bonus: It includes a bucket challenge photo of former Bolt Ryan Shannon.

Sports Illustrated opines whether we’ve seen the last of Sami Salo and Ryan Malone in the NHL along with other free agents. Answers are most likely and most definitely. Allan Muir | SI

A Florida resident wants to watch New York Islanders games only and doesn’t want to pay for GameCenter Live or Center Ice and a two-year court battle continues. Also of interest, apparently New York City providers carry Florida sports stations but blacks out Lightning games.  Rick Westhead | TSN

Yes, the Lightning use Fancy Stats, but they’re not telling you how. Joe Smith | Tampa Bay Times

Why layaway is needed for hockey equipment

Tim Thomas, the biggest gear slut of them all.

Tim Thomas, the biggest gear slut of them all.

If you’re lucky to play hockey, let me congratulate you for somehow affording to pay for league fees, ice time, doctor visits and gear.

The equipment is expensive and us goaltenders get hit hard. Skates will last you for years once your feet stop growing, your chesty should last you a good five years or so before the bruising becomes more noticeable and that jock stays fresh, eh? All told, you’re looking at $2,000 for leg pads, a glove and blocker. The chesty can go for $500, pants are $200 and so on.

There was a time you could get away from not buying pro level gear and feel relatively protected and getting good performance. That went away when every beer leaguer could let off a shot like Shea Weber thanks to lighter, stronger one-piece sticks. Paying for that extra padding helps.  (For what it’s worth, I’ve heard for the last five years the Bauer gear that’s a a step below the pro level is pretty solid, but have yet to test it out.)

It’s time that hockey retailers offer layaway to get more people into newer, safer gear and to help eliminate financial barriers. I’ve seen similar requests on Goalie Gear Sluts United only for guys to get chirped saying use the PayPal payment plan or a credit card. The PayPal plan is actually a credit application and it’s only good for certain items on eBay. Some of us don’t want to carry an extra credit card, or any. We each have our own way of saving, too.

Used gear is an option, but the margin is lower for stores. The life in those pads aren’t usually much and at times were modified unbeknownst to the shop or customer. Buying online, you can’t tell the life of the pads in pictures thanks to kids getting smart with ways to remove puck marks from white-based pads. Unless you get a look at the knee cradle and calf wrap, it’s hard to tell how beat up the leg pads are.

What layaway does is holds the item you want so somebody else doesn’t buy it from under you, as long as you continue to make timely payments. Sometimes if a shop is out, they’re out. If they have to order if for you, they’re going to ask for money up front so they don’t have extra inventory.

The weird thing is that stores essentially do this for custom orders asking for like $600 or $800 down then the rest due when the work is completed and shipped. Still, that much as a deposit can be a little rich. Some of us just want stock gear, you know? Not all of us are Tim Thomas, going through five or six brands of gear a year.

The systems aren’t hard to set up and most computer-based POS systems should be able to handle it. If not, hook up a spreadsheet or Quicken to handle it. If you’re a small shop, all you need is a small back room with a couple shelves or a cage where each item is labeled with customer info or even a corresponding customer. Sure, charge a layaway convenience fee. It still would be worth it for the customer.

If you’re not sure how to create terms and rules, visit Kmart or Walmart when they have it during Christmas on how to handle cancellations and nonpayments. If they cancel, hold a percentage as a penalty unless they are buying something else in the pro shop.

This would be a great way for your local pro shop to help drive revenue and find a way to divert sales away from the big online shops.

On the flip side, places with tremendous stock like GoalieMonkey, Perani’s and TotalGoalie could all take this to the next level and offer online layaway. Kmart now offers this where you can create a layaway order online, choose the payment plan and when the layaway is paid off, the merchandise is picked up in store. With these big stores, they’d have to ship these out.

I’ve read how a couple of shops in Canada are smart enough to carry a store demo pad and have people pay to rent the pad and test it out before they decide on the pad they want to buy.

Some small shops are willing to allow you to do a layaway even if it’s not advertised. I haven’t tried that for hockey gear, but six years ago I wanted to get a bike, so I saw a Fuji hybrid bike in my local shop, gave the guy $300 then came in every two weeks and paid him until I could get it. I still have the bike today, which reminds me I ought to be riding it more now that my leg is better.

I have my eye on some pads that are marked down in Brandon and hope to convince the owner to let me pay on them and take them off his hands. In this case, they’re pads that have been in the shop for a few years now and haven’t found a buyer and he has lost money on them. These are the opportunities where a layaway system works for both people involved.

Do you know of a pro shop that offers layaway? How do they have their system set up? Comment below.

Why the Washington Capitals should go ahead and announce Nationals Park game

Winter Classic 2011

My view of the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Photo by Charles Schelle

On Jan. 1, I’m going to be attending my third Winter Classic game but it’s all but certain where the game will be held.

The Washington Capitals haven’t formally announced where the game will be held at, but come on. It’s going to be at Nationals Park. Folks have pointed to the ownership relationship, with Mark Lerner being the key link, and how people hate FedEx Field, Dan Snyder and the name of the football team there plus RFK Stadium needs some TLC.

The answer lies in the season and partial ticket plans being offered by the Caps. The Caps are only allotting one Winter Classic ticket purchase per regular season ticket plan purchase. Season ticket holders get first crack and it goes down from there. This is only being done because of the 41,888-seat capacity at Nationals Park. The Caps in 2008 were reported to have around 12,000 season ticket equivalents (counts two half plans as one). There is a waiting list on season tickets now, so the number is probably around there. If everyone bought two tickets, that would be 24,000 seats and who knows how many partial plan holders there are buying 12- or 6-game packs. That would leave very little left for corporate sponsors, tickets for players’ families, tickets offered to the Blackhawks base and general sales.

Now, the same argument can be applied to RFK Stadium because it only holds 45,000. I will say this about the 54-year-old stadium: it has charm despite its age. It seems to be that RFK was at least in a close second, but Nats park is much younger.

RFK also has a 360-degree upper deck, where the views will be spectacular. The NHL has charged more for upper deck seats because of the views since the lower bowls tend to have obstructions.  Nats Park’s upper deck also has a nice view of D.C., while the lower bowl has a glorious view of a parking garage.

I much rather it be at RFK for the nostalgia, plus the giant parking lot and neighboring DC Armory provides good opportunity to stage activities. Nats Park has a more vibrant neighborhood, but there’s not really anywhere to stage events save for a small parking lot and blocking off the streets. Maybe the Mall plays into this with potential setting up events there—a 20-minute Metro ride away in a heavily walked area.

When the Caps visited Heinz Field for the 2011 Winter Classic, the team, even though they were visitors, were allowed two tickets per one regular season plan ticket purchase. I was one of those lucky ones who not only got to purchase two through my plan but also got into the ticket lottery and grabbed another two tickets that I sold to a friend so he could take his father.

Heinz Field holds 65,000 people, thus the room to wiggle to offer more tickets.

If we’re lucky, maybe Ticketmaster will end the drama like it did for the Stadium Series in San Francisco, as Puck Daddy pointed out.

Even though I’m living in Sarasota, Fla., I’ve bought a partial plan to get a chance to buy a ticket. I’m selling my six tickets to friends/family back up in Maryland to pay off the Winter Classic ticket. But we all know that money will be funneled right back paying for Winter Classic jerseys and merchandise.

Ben Bishop playing it safe with contract extension

Ben Bishop Lightning

Ben Bishop inked a two-year extension Saturday to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Photo by Charles Schelle

The molasses-like flow of August hockey news spilled in today with Ben Bishop inking a two-year extension with the Lightning.

Bishop signing now takes away the largest question mark for Bolts free agents next season, relegating the choices to who the back-up goalie will be, if Brenden Morrow will have anything left in the tank and if Eric Brewer has earned his keep. (With his reduced minutes, yes.)

The signing helps stabilize the lineup for this and next season making a strong run possible and helps general manager Steve Yzerman focus on getting a Stamkos extension done next year.

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports that Bishop’s deal is worth $11.9 million with a $5.95 million cap hit each year. Bishop, who is still rehabbing an injured elbow, thinks it’s a fair shake considering he’s still out to prove himself and he got a little banged up:

“I didn’t want to head into training camp and then maybe play half a season with (no new contract) in the back of my mind because as much as you like to say that it’s not a distraction, it usually is,’’ Bishop said. “So it was nice to get this over with, I think it’s a fair deal for both sides and I’m really excited to be a part of this organization for another three years.’’

Yet, his raise immediately shows that going for goaltending on the cheap has ended. Clearly Ben Bishop has won out the goalie talent show for the organization, as his cap hit is now the second highest on the team, only behind Steven Stamkos’ $7.5 million hit, according to CapGeek. Previously, Ryan Callahan’s new contract stood as the second-highest hit. Matt Carle then rounds out the list with a $5.5 million cap hit. Having four years remaining on Carle’s deal coupled with a large cap hit might see him being unloaded in favor of keeping and resigning Eric Brewer.

Shelling out $6 million used to be a top salary for a goaltender in the league. That has changed so much. Fourteen goaltenders make $6 million or more per season with Henrik Lundqvist making a ridiculous $11 million a year.  In that list, four have Stanley Cup rings either as a starter or back-up—Tuuka Rask, Cam Ward, Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford. Marc-Andre Fleury barely gets cut off on this list with his $5.75 million cap hit—lower than Bishop’s.

The King, Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo are the only other goalies to have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals making $6 million or more. (Of note, despite Wikipedia’s claims, here’s an interview where Ken Holland said Howard was not given a ring for his time as a Black Ace in 2008.)

Pekka Rinne makes the most for any goaltender not to have played in the Stanley Cup Finals, at $7 million a season. Also on that list is Carey Price, Kari Lehtonen, Sergei Bobrovksy, Semyon Varlamov, Ryan Miller and Mike Smith. A mix of strong regular seasons and international play is apparently good enough for some of these other netminders. Varlamov and Bobrovksy helped their teams overachieve to get into the playoffs, and Lehtonen ought to get credit for doing the same for Dallas.

I can’t think what his raise is going to look like. The only way the fan base will feel comfortable with a substantial raise beyond what Bishop will make in his extension years if there is another Stanley Cup banner added to the rafters at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Bishop being faithful is great considering how he tried to stick with his hometown St. Louis Blues, but that didn’t pan out, proving how dreamlike those “come home” scenarios are. (Are you listening Toronto?) It led to Bishop heading to Ottawa for a draft pick, eventually falling in the lap of Tampa in exchange for a once promising Cory Conacher.

So if it makes you any more comfortable, you can safely buy a Ben Bishop T-shirt that ought to last you three years. And hey, the Florida sales tax holiday ends Sunday, so there’s some extra motivation.

Tampa Bay Lightning offseason potpourri

Tampa Bay Lightning - ImgurMy foot is feeling better enough to play hockey again, yet that was last night, so I’ve lagged a little on the posts. I’m glad you care about my foot health.

While I was away from the blog, some nuggets continued to be scattered to get us through the offseason. This being Aug. 2, we have now entered the slowest part of the offseason. Beat reporters in many places took vacations in mid-July while others might be working assignments for other sports to kill the time. Tampa Bay offers enough distractions, even during the season, that it should be a little better to alleviate the lack of hockey.

I’ll thrown in some extra commentary to help kill time with links because I’m always thinking of you, loyal reader.

 

LIGHTNING LINKS

  • Up top is a GIF list posted to Reddit via Imgur. Somebody went to the trouble to do GIF transitions of every home and away jersey for each NHL team, defunct and current. Maybe he’ll do one of every third jersey in NHL history. (s/t to the Lightning for sharing)  Imgur
  • While we’re on an Imgur kick, here are NHL jerseys in 8-bit form.
  • Jay Feaster continued to garner attention with his new role and his view on the Martin St. Louis trade with this interview from The Fischler Report. (Though I don’t know what part you’d qualify this as an exclusive considering he’s been answering these questions for a week or so in his new role. That he was alone in the room with you?)  Despite my snark, this is a really good read. Jake Becker | The Fischler Report
  • Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney aggregated the piece and focused on Feaster’s comments of when/what would it take for John Tortorella to return to an NHL bench. Harrison Mooney | Puck Daddy
  • Feaster also gives another PSA of his role with the Lightning for the team’s website. Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Anthony DeAngelo revisits draft day and a couple other tidbits about himself with the team. Tampa Bay Lightning
  • So, how does DeAngelo stack up when all Lightning prospects are ranked, regardless of position? Bolts Prospects has the complete list. Pete Choquette | Bolts Prospects
  • Crunch beat reporter Lindsay Kramer picks out a couple from that list who could see time in Syracuse. Lindsay Kramer | The Post-Standard
  • One prospect likely coming to North America is Czech prospect and 36th overall pick in this year’s draft, Dominik Masin. His agent says he’s close to committing with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Mike Davies | Peterborough Examiner
  • If you believe this Reddit research, the Lightning has the ninth most affordable season ticket price, albeit way, way upper bowl, at $792. The Florida Panthers check in at No. 1 for $516. Reddit
  • This is pretty cool in the self-promotion department: A photo I took last year of Andrei Vasilevskiy ended up on one of the top sports news sites of Russia, Sports.ru. They’re so inventive. I appreciate they linked to my blog for the photo credit to drive traffic. If I had taken a better photo, I’d ask for some rubles.  Anyway, the story is a round-up of Russian pro hockey prospects and how their summer camps are going. Sport.ru
  • Vaughn-DesjardinsFor the gear nuts in all of us, here is the new set-up for Cédrick Desjardins, former Syracuse Crunch goaltender who made a few appearances for the Lightning over the years. Click through to see his matching glove and blocker on Vaughn’s Facebook. It’s nice of them to say they’re for the Rangers, but we all know he’s heading to the Hartford WolfPack. Also, if you remember minor leaguer Bobby Goepfert, a former Florida Everblade, Vaughn also posted his set for his German league team. Vaughn Custom Equipment | Facebook 
  • Owner Jeff Vinik just began work on a new mansion on Sarasota’s St. Armands Key. Get this: he bought a mansion last year for $4.25 million and razed it, then bought another one next door for $3.5 million to knock it down, only to build a new 9,200-square-foot home on both lots for $3.5 million. That’s more than $12 million for a mansion that is an hour away from one of his Tampa compounds. Dude has some cash. Drew Harwell | Tampa Bay Times
  • Finally, you can watch reruns of a new “Inside The Lightning: Offseason Special” on SunSports throughout August to get your fix. Fox Sports