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Lightning sign Roberts, Malone and Prospal

by John Kreiser

The Lightning continued their busy offseason on the eve of free agency, which included working out a deal to bring Vaclav Prospal back to Tampa Bay.
With unrestricted free agency hours away, the Tampa Bay Lightning led the parade of NHL teams that spent Monday signing their own players to keep them off the market.

The Lightning, working to retool after finishing last in the overall standings in 2007-08, worked out deals with forwards Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and Vaclav Prospal. The Bolts had acquired the rights to all three impending free agents for draft picks.

Roberts, who helped Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final, signed a one-year deal after scoring three goals and 15 points in 38 regular-season games with the Penguins and adding two goals and four points in 11 playoff games. The 20-year NHL veteran has 434 goals and 903 points in his career, plus 32 goals and 93 points in 130 playoff games. He won the Cup with Calgary in 1989.

"He brings the Lightning leadership, tenacity, grit and experience and he will be great for our young players, especially Steven (Stamkos, the No. 1 overall pick in the Entry Draft)," new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie said. "He will be tremendous for the locker room and his ability to play different roles at the forward position will be beneficial to the team next season.”

Malone, another key to the Penguins' Playoff run, signed a seven-year deal.

"Ryan's signing is a great validation of the organization's plans and desires as we move forward," Koules and Barrie said. "He fits our strategic plan of adding quality players with a warrior mentality."

Malone had 27 goals and 51 points in 77 games with the Penguins. The 27-year-old Pittsburgh native also had six goals and 16 points in 20 playoff games. For his career, Malone has 87 goals and 169 points in 299 games.

Prospal, who spent most of the season with the Lightning before being dealt to Philadelphia at the trade deadline, will likely be reunited with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis — the three were one of the NHL's most productive lines before the trade.

Tampa Bay has also acquired the rights to another impending free agent, Brian Rolston from Minnesota. The Lightning had until midnight EDT to sign him before he became an unrestricted free agent.

The Lightning also acquired Finnish defenseman Janne Niskala from Philadelphia for a sixth-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.

The Lightning weren't the only ones active on the signing front.

Colorado acted to keep two of its top defensemen, signing Adam Foote to a two-year contract and John-Michael Liles to a four-year deal. Foote, who turns 37 on July 10, had one assist in 12 games after being acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline, bringing him back to the team with which he won Stanley Cup rings in 1996 and 2001. The Avs were 9-2-1 with Foote in the lineup.

Liles, 27, topped all Colorado defensemen with 32 points in 2007-08. However, his six goals were a sharp drop from the 14 he scored in each of the two previous seasons, and his point total was the lowest of his four NHL seasons, down from 49 in 2005-06 and 44 in 2006-07.

Florida made a long-term commitment to 2004 first-round pick Rostislav Olesz, signing the 22-year-old forward to a six-year contract. Olesz played in 56 games for the Panthers this past season and scored a career-high 14 goals along with 12 assists for 26 points. In three seasons with Florida, the Czech native has played in 190 games with 33 goals and 77 points. The 6-foot-1, 207-pounder is the 10th Panther player on the roster to have a multi-year contract entering the 2008-09 season.

Detroit retained defenseman Andreas Lilja by re-signing him to a two-year contract. Lilja, who turns 33 on July 13, had two goals and 12 points during the regular season and one assist in 12 playoff games.

Buffalo retained center Paul Gaustad, set to become a restricted free agent, to a four-year contract. Gaustad, 26, had career highs of 10 goals and 36 points this past season and was one of four Sabres to play in all 82 games.

San Jose kept forward Jody Shelley by signing him to a two-year deal. The Sharks acquired Shelley, 32, from Columbus for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 Draft on Jan. 29. He had one goal, seven points and 91 penalty minutes in 31 games with the Sharks.

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