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Revamped Bolts add Kolzig, Vrbata and Hall

by Dan Rosen

The Tampa Bay Lightning continued their overhaul Tuesday afternoon by adding three more pieces to their revamped roster.

Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie announced the signing of forwards Radim Vrbata and Adam Hall to multiyear contracts as well as former Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig to a one-year deal.

Since the NHL season ended -- with the Lightning last in the overall standings -- Tampa Bay has announced its new ownership group, made Steven Stamkos the No. 1 overall selection in the Entry Draft, worked out a long-term contract with star center Vincent Lecavalier, named Barry Melrose as their new coach, and signed free agents Vrbata, Hall, Kolzig, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Vaclav Prospal.

Vrbata is coming off his most productive NHL season with the Phoenix Coyotes and Hall was a contributor to the Pittsburgh Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup Final. Kolzig is coming off a season in which he surpassed the 300-win mark but lost the No. 1 goaltending job in Washington, a position he'd held for a decade, when Caps GM George McPhee traded for Cristobal Huet at the trade deadline.

Although Kolzig is 38, the Lightning feel he's the perfect insurance plan in case Mike Smith, who has never entered an NHL season as a No. 1 goalie, falters or is injured.
 
The Lightning also have Karri Ramo, but now it appears the Finnish goalie, who turned 22 on Tuesday, is headed to the AHL for another year of seasoning. Kolzig was 25-21-6 with a 2.91 GAA this past season before Huet arrived from Montreal at the trade deadline and went on a hot streak.

"Olaf is a real stabilizer in the locker room and on the ice," said Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton, another newcomer to the organization. "With Karri Ramo, Olaf Kolzig and Mike Smith, we have a great deal of depth at the goaltending position and we like all the options that allows us moving forward."

Vrbata put up career highs with 27 goals, 29 assists and 56 points in 76 games this past season, his only one in Phoenix. He was also a plus-6, his best rating since plus-7 as a rookie in 2001-02.

"He is a high-end talent and a quality person who will play amongst our core group of forwards and make the Lightning a harder team to defend against night in and night out." -- Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie on the signing of Radim Vrbata

Vrbata has also played for Colorado, Carolina and Chicago, but this is the first time he joined a new team on his own accord. The Avalanche dealt him at the 2003 trade deadline to Carolina for Bates Battaglia. He closed the 2002-03 season and played the entire 2003-04 season with the Hurricanes, scoring 17 goals and dishing out 13 assists in 90 games.

Sixteen games into the 2005-06 season, the Hurricanes moved Vrbata to Chicago. He played well for the Blackhawks, contributing 27 goals and 48 assists in 122 games, including what was then a career-high 41 points in 2006-07.

However, Vrbata was still considered somewhat of a disappointment, and the Hawks traded him to Phoenix last August for checking center Kevyn Adams. The Czech native appeared to reach his potential under the coaching of Wayne Gretzky, earning the three-year deal from Tampa Bay.

"In Radim, we are thrilled to add another quality person to our roster, helping us raise our scoring capabilities," Koules and Barrie said. "He is a high-end talent and a quality person who will play amongst our core group of forwards and make the Lightning a harder team to defend against night in and night out."

Hall is also joining his fourth NHL team. He started with Nashville, which traded him to the New York Rangers in 2006. They shipped him to Minnesota and he signed with the Penguins last summer.

Hall scored three playoff goals for Pittsburgh, including the winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit. He has 108 points in 352 NHL games, but offense isn't Hall's forte. He's known for winning faceoffs in the defensive zone and for playing a physical, fourth-line role.

"Adam brings us versatility as a defensive player and he is a character guy who will help us get back into the playoffs," Koules and Barrie said in a joint statement. "He was very impressive this past postseason and we think he brings some intangibles that every team needs to be successful."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com

 

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