Before the first puck was dropped this year there were a few questions about the Bridgeport Sound Tigers chances of repeating as division champions. The biggest question being, who is going to do the scoring?
Of the top thirteen scoring forwards from last season only David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas returned. Free agents Brandon DeFazio and Colin McDonald, acquired from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penquins, and Matt Watkins from the Portland Pirates will provide a solid veteran presence that can be counted on to put up some big numbers, but what about the kids?
Left to carry the banner as the premier hockey league in North America is the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Islanders proud affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
If you are planning a trip to the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport for your first taste of AHL action you are in for a treat. The quality of play and level of competition will leave you impressed, the more intimate fan experience and ambiance of this state of the art facility will certainly leave you planning to return.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has signed a contract with Barys Astana of the KHL. The big Swede is the first Bolts player to decide to play in Europe during the lockout. The 21 year old blue liner had five goals and 18 assists in 61 games with Tampa Bay last season. (Hedman photograph/Linda Hamilton)
Teams in the KHL can sign up to three NHL players at a maximum of 65% of their NHL salary during the lockout. Barys has also signed Winnipeg Jets center Nik Antropov.
Should the lockout continue, expect Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis to take their talents overseas. Both have had preliminary talks with European teams.
The boys are back in town and sales will soon increase at Chipotles, Mr. Macs Canteen and dozens of restaurants in the area as the players prepare for the upcoming season.
It will not be long before locals can expect a Swedish flag flying outside a home rented by John Persson, Johan Sundstrom, David Ullstrom and Anders Nillson while larea chefs cringe as Ullstrom adds ketchup to the marinara sauce they spent hours preparing.
There is less than 12 hours until the third lockout begins under Commissioner Gary Bettman's watch. The last occurred back in 2004, canceling the 2004-2005 season and resulted in a new salary cap system. However, that system has been failing the smaller market teams, forcing them to keep up with the other clubs who earn more revenue and can afford higher salaries.
The owners and the NHLPA are fine with a salary cap system; they are not trying to reinvent the wheel all over again. But both sides are trying to structure an agreement on how the revenue is shared between the owners and players.
In recent discussions, several different proposals have been thrown on the table but none have come close to settling the disagreement. Bettman has been prepared to lockout his players if a new deal is not reached by the end of today. Although each side is likely to meet with each other before the day is over, it seems very unlikely that an 11th hour deal will be made.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have assigned 18 players to Syracuse (AHL) as they prepare for the pending lockout. All of these players did not have to clear waivers to be sent down.
The players that were assigned are: Forwards Brett Connolly, JT Brown, Cory Conacher, Danick Gauthier, Richard Panik, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Alex Hutchings, defensemen Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Dmitry Korobov, Charles Landry, Dan Milan and goalies Dustin Tokarski, Riku Helenius and Pat Nagle.
The players union seems steadfastly united as 250-300 members are expected to meet in New York, today and tomorrow. Lightning players planning on attending are Adam Hall, Nate Thompson, Mathieu Garon, BJ Crombeen, Brian Lee, Matt Carle and Marc-Andre Bergeron.
The NHL and the NHLPA have plans to meet this morning at 10:00 a.m. despite still remaining far apart. If the two sides don’t reach an agreement, the lockout will officially start at midnight on Sunday.
The Lightning players are preparing for a work stoppage. In that case, they will not be able to enter the Tampa Bay Times Forum or any other team facility.
In a normal year, Kichton’s NHL Entry Level Contract (ELC) would have already passed from negotiation to signing. This year negotiations have yet to begin.
Several weeks after multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts were being handed out like Hershey Bars on Halloween, seventy-thousand dollar a year ELC’s are being withheld while meetings in Toronto and New York drag on to the inevitable.
It is rare when a player stays for more than three seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The team exists for one purpose and one purpose only … develop talent for their NHL affiliate, the New York Islanders.
Each September, a half-dozen or so twenty-year olds arrive in Bridgeport to begin their careers as professional hockey players against bigger, faster, stronger competition.
This years arrivals could include forwards Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, Johan Sundstrom, John Persson, Mike Halmo and perhaps Nino Niederreiter, each, an investment by the Islanders in the future of the franchise.