Martin St. Louis to Have Number Retired, Bjugstad and Merrill Injured & More News

Every announcement coming out of Tampa during training camp is watched with great anticipation because RFA forward Nikita Kucherov remains unsigned. But that wasn’t the big news Thursday. The team announced plans to retire Martin St. Louis’s 26.

The club will raise his number to the rafters on January 13, 2017 when the team hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets and John Tortorella, who was head coach when the Lightning and St. Louis won the Stanley Cup in 2004. St. Louis will be the first player in team history to have his number retired.

“Everyone in the organization is excited to celebrate and thank Marty for his immense long-term contributions to the Lightning’s past successes and the Tampa Bay community,” said team chairman and governor Jeff Vinik. “As Marty enters his second year in retirement from the game, we believe this season is the time to hang his number from the rafters at AMALIE Arena.

“Marty had a terrific career in Tampa Bay, making six All-Star appearances while setting numerous team records, all highlighted of course by the Stanley Cup win in 2004. We look forward to a wonderful retirement ceremony, recognizing him for all that he accomplished as a member of the Lightning.”

St. Louis played 1,134 career NHL games as an undrafted forward out of the University of Vermont. 972 of those games came in a Lightning sweater. During his career he not only won the Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold and a World Cup championship, he was a Hart Trophy winner in 2003-04, won the Art Ross in both 2003-04 and 2012-13, won the Lester B. Pearson award in 2003-04 and was a three-time Lady Byng winner.

Bjugstad Down

Nick Bjugstad can’t catch a break. The young center spent a significant chunk of last season on the shelf with an injury and he’ll start this season in a similar situation. He’s slated to miss around a month of play with a broken hand suffered in Wednesday’s preseason tilt against the Dallas Stars.

With the Panthers on the rise, Bjugstad is entering this season with something to prove after he was bumped down to the third line last year. It was his least productive season to date, with just 15 goals and 34 points. That was a disappointing result after he led the team in points his rookie season and then topped his goals and point totals the following year.

Jon Merrill
New Jersey’s Jon Merrill. Photo: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Injuries Strike the Devils

The New Jersey Devils announced Wednesday that defenseman Jon Merrill sustained an injury during a preseason game against the New York Rangers. The 24-year-old has a broken finger that will keep him out four to five weeks.

It’s a blow for the defender who had his 2015-16 season cut short by a shoulder injury. The 2010 second-round draft pick has played significant time in three NHL seasons, but has yet to play a full 82-game campaign in part because of injuries. It appears that the full campaign won’t come this year either.

Additionally, the Devils are going to start the season without the services of offseason acquisition Luke Gazdic. He will miss at least four weeks with a broken foot sustained while blocking a shot during a Sept. 26 preseason contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The 27-year-old left wing played 29 games for the Edmonton Oilers last season, registering one goal and no assists with 24 penalty minutes.

Canucks Return Olli Juolevi to Juniors

Vancouver’s 2016 first-round draft pick (fifth overall) Olli Juolevi was released from training camp Wednesday. He returns to the OHL’s London Knights, who should be formidable despite the likely loss of top forwards like Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak.

Additionally, the team sent Dmitry Zhukenov back to his junior team and sent Joseph LaBate and Borna Rendulic to the Utica Comets of the AHL. The last of their moves was to release former Minnesota Wild draft pick James Sheppard from his professional tryout (PTO).

Senators Release Bartkowski

The Ottawa Senators have released Matt Bartkowski from training camp. He was there on a PTO. His release may be an indication that the team is happy with the performance of prospect Thomas Chabot.

The 28-year-old Bartkowski played 80 games for the Canucks last season, registering 18 points.

Additionally, Chris Driedger, Max McCormick, Chad Nehring and Nick Paul were reassigned to the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. Mike Blunden, Michael Kostka and Buddy Robinson were placed on waivers Wednesday for the purpose of being reassigned to the AHL should they clear Thursday at noon.

Raffi Torres
Photo: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Torres Too

Another PTO down. The Carolina Hurricanes have released Raffi Torres from his tryout contract, the team announced Thursday.

Torres had said earlier in the offseason that he understood this is probably his last shot at an NHL gig. While he’s been surprisingly productive in his most recent games, he’s also not played that many games in recent seasons through a combination of suspensions and injuries.

Another Chance for Fontaine

While the tryout in Florida didn’t work out for former Minnesota Wild winger Justin Fontaine, he’s getting another shot during training camp. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo reports Thursday that Fontaine has been given a tryout with the Dallas Stars and could be in the lineup as soon as Friday’s preseason tilt.

Odds and Ends

– The Penguins hit the White House with the Stanley Cup. President Barack Obama introduced the celebration hilariously, saying, “We’re here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement, Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion.”

– New York Islanders prospect Josh Ho Sang showed off his speed and hands Wednesday night.