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Just about everything is new in Tampa

Tuesday, 09.16.2008 / 10:00 AM / Season Preview

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

About the only thing that's not new about the Tampa Bay Lightning are their jerseys. OK, the Bolts still have All-Stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, but there are few other bodies left from the team that finished last in the overall standings in 2007-08.

The new ownership, led by Hollywood producer Oren Koules and former NHL center Len Barrie, moved players the way kids swap hockey cards, wheeling and dealing to an extent that Lightning fans will need a program to keep track of all the new players.

In addition to 2008 No. 1 pick Steve Stamkos, the Lightning landed three players from the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins, bringing in top-six winger Ryan Malone and adding veteran forward Gary Roberts and checker Adam Hall.

The Lightning brought back Vaclav Prospal, who was dealt to Philadelphia at the trade deadline and figures to return to left wing with Lecavalier and St. Louis. Right wing Radim Vrbata, a 27-goal scorer with Phoenix, was signed as a free agent, as was veteran right wing Mark Recchi.

There were changes on defense, too. Former Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Carle came from San Jose in a deal that sent Dan Boyle to the Sharks. He'll join another newcomer, Andrej Meszaros, who signed a six-year deal after being acquired from Ottawa for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and a first-rounder next spring.

"I'm excited to be joining the Lightning," Meszaros said after the deal with Ottawa was made and the new contract signed. "I'm extremely happy to be heading to Tampa Bay and I can't wait to take advantage of this opportunity. We should have a great team, and I can't wait to get started."

Nor were the goaltenders immune from an overall. The Lightning brought in longtime Washington netminder Olaf Kolzig to go along with Mike Smith and Karri Ramo.

There's an old/new face behind the bench as well. Barry Melrose, who coached Los Angeles to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final before finding success as a TV analyst for more than a decade, is back in the NHL. Also, GM Jay Feaster was replaced by Brian Lawton, who's now VP of Hockey Operations.

All in all, it's the kind of shakeup few teams have ever tried.

But the remodeled Lightning aren't the only Eastern Conference team with new faces in new places. Here are some other familiar players who'll be wearing new jerseys this fall.

Wade Redden, Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev, Rangers -- Redden, one of the NHL's better offensive defensemen during his time with Ottawa, has seen his production drop off over the past two seasons. That didn't deter the New York Rangers, who hope a change of scenery and a six-year contract will help the 31-year-old reinvigorate his career.

Naslund, Vancouver's longtime captain and all-time leading scorer, also joined the Rangers as a free agent. Zherdev, Columbus' second-leading scorer last season, came over in a deal that sent defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman to the Blue Jackets.

The Rangers also added forwards Aaron Voros and Patrick Rissmiller as they move on after the departure of Jaromir Jagr to Russia.

Like the Lightning, the Rangers are taking some major risks. At least one newcomer is sure they'll pay off.

"This team has a chance to win the Cup," Naslund said after signing with the Rangers. "I wanted to sign with a Cup contender. I think we've all seen how tight the race is when it comes to the playoffs. I believe that the Rangers are going in the right direction. I'd like to be a part of that, and I'd like to be part of a Stanley Cup champion for sure."

Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston, Devils -- Who says you can't go home again? Not Holik or Rolston, both of whom returned to the team with which they won the Stanley Cup.

Rolston

Rolston, who owns a ring from his time with the 1995 Devils, came back to New Jersey from Minnesota after signing a five-year contract. It's a long-term deal for a 35-year-old, but Rolston has showed no signs of slowing down. He had 31 goals and 59 points for the Wild. Overall, he has 286 goals and 348 assists for 634 points in 977 NHL games with New Jersey, Colorado, Boston and Minnesota.

Holik grew into one of the NHL's best checking centers while helping the Devils win Cups in 1995 and 2000. The 37-year-old played the past three seasons with Atlanta, where he had 15 goals and 34 points while playing all 82 games for the Thrashers last season.

"Brian Rolston has developed into one of the top two-way players in the game and certainly will add to our center-ice position and also to our power play," Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello said after the signings. "Bobby is still one of the top size-strength forwards and will add size and strength to our center ice."

Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko, Penguins -- It's every forward's fantasy; going from a last-place team that struggles to score to a Cup finalist with two of the NHL's best centers. Such is life for Satan and Fedotenko, who struggled with the punchless Islanders last season but come to the Penguins and their one-two center punch of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Satan

Satan, now 34, is coming off a 16-goal season --  his worst since entering the NHL with Edmonton in 1995-96. He played 80 games despite battling knee problems, and GM Ray Shero is hoping that playing with better centers will help Satan rediscover his scoring touch.

"Miroslav brings skill, experience and size to our hockey team," Shero said after the signing. "He is a player that has put up very good offensive numbers in the NHL. By playing with our core group of forwards he should only be able to build upon those numbers and provide offense for our hockey club."

Fedotenko also had 16 goals for the Islanders last season -- in just 67 games before being sidelined for the season with a sprained knee. The Penguins are hoping he'll provide the combination of muscle and skill that Ryan Malone gave them before leaving for Tampa Bay.

Jose Theodore, Capitals -- Cristobal Huet gave the Caps superb goaltending down the stretch, helping them rally to win the Southeast Division. But Huet is now with Chicago, longtime starter Olaf Kolzig went to Tampa Bay -- and the Caps have hitched their hopes for a repeat to Theodore, who revived his career last season with the Colorado Avalanche.

Theodore

After struggling since winning the Hart Trophy with Montreal in 2001-02, Theodore found his form in Colorado last season. His goaltending led the Avs into the playoffs, and he was the star of the series as Colorado upended Northwest Division champion Minnesota before losing to Detroit in the second round.

Overall, Theodore was 28-21-3 with three shutouts, a 2.44 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 2007-08. Putting up numbers like that might be more difficult on a team that's offense-oriented.

"All he has to do is stop two breakaways a game and we'll be good," coach Bruce Boudreau joked after the signing, "because we're going. And if we're going, he'd better be ready for that one big save."

Some other teams with old faces in new places:

Ron Hainsey and Jason Williams, Thrashers -- Hainsey gives the Thrashers a gun on the power play. Williams is a consistent scorer as long as he can stay healthy.

Michael Ryder, Bruins -- The B's are banking on a return to form by Ryder, who struggled badly with Montreal last season. They also figure to get a boost from the return of Patrice Bergeron, who missed almost all of last season with a severe concussion.

Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard, Panthers -- Florida GM hopes the two defensemen he got from Phoenix for Olli Jokinen will help solidify the blue line.

Alex Tanguay and Georges Laraque, Canadiens -- Tanguay should thrive with one of the NHL's top offenses; Laraque will be counted on for a physical presence.

Doug Weight and Mark Streit, Islanders -- Weight joins longtime friend and former linemate Bill Guerin on Long Island. The Isles are counting on Streit, a key to Montreal's power-play success, to give their struggling extra-man unit a boost.







 

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— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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