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Signing of goaltender Riku Helenius gives Lightning added depth, options

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

The signing of goaltender Riku Helenius to a two-year contract might not serve as the answer to fill the Tampa Bay Lightning’s need for a bona fide starting goaltender, but it does perhaps bring the team one step closer to doing just that.

That’s because the addition of Helenius gives Tampa Bay some added depth within its farm system, not to mention extra leverage to get a deal in the works with the goal of attaining a more permanent solution in net.

Helenius made his NHL debut on January 30, 2009 against the Philadelphia Flyers in a relief effort.(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The first year of the deal is a two-way agreement that would pay a different salary at the NHL level than it would in the minor leagues, while the second year is a one-way agreement that would pay Helenius a flat-rate salary no matter at which level he plays.

Regardless, the Lightning now have three non-roster goaltenders under contract for next season, including Helenius, Dustin Tokarski and Pat Nagle. There is also the option to retain Jaroslav Janus, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1.

Helenius, though, is an intriguing addition.

The native of Palkane, Finland, 24, was selected 15th overall at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and spent parts of two seasons with the Lightning, making his NHL debut playing 20 minutes in relief during the 2008-09 season. He then left during the 2009-10 season to return to Europe, where he strung together some impressive numbers.

Last season, he led JYP to the Finnish elite league championship with a 1.64 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in the regular season, while also being honored as the Urpo Ylonen Award winner as the top goaltender during the regular season.

While the search for a number-one goaltender is sure to continue this summer, the addition of Helenius creates additional frameworks from which general manager Steve Yzerman can work to attain a long-term solution, and thus create long-term success, in the future.

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