New labor deal zaps supersubs

Published August 19, 2005

In the past, the Lightning called up reliable fill-ins Eric Perrin and Shane Willis from the minors to replace injured players. It looks as if the team will not have those two options any longer.

Both players said Thursday they did not expect to return and likely will play in Europe.

"I don't feel there is a true opportunity to play there in the NHL with the Lightning," Perrin said. "It's nothing against Tampa Bay. They're classy people, they let me live the dream of playing on a Stanley Cup team. But they're loaded, and waiting for an injury to get called up is a high risk."

The problem facing Perrin and Willis is that, under the new labor agreement, players in the minors making more than $75,000 a year have to pass through waivers to be called up. So players making more than $75,000 might never get called up, and Perrin and Willis can earn much more than $75,000 playing elsewhere.

Willis said he might play in Switzerland.

"I have family considerations and if I'm going to make more than $75,000 in the minors, I'll never get called up," Willis said. "Making less and hoping to get called up? That's too much risk for reward. The best option for my family is go to Europe and play."

Willis has played in 174 NHL games, including 33 with the Lightning from 2001-04. Perrin played in four regular-season games in 2003-04 and appeared in 12 postseason games.

"It's a disappointing time in my career," Perrin said. "I fought so hard to get where I got, and I was right there on the verge of sticking with the team. It's frustrating, but that's how it goes."

SIGNING DAY: Thursday wasn't a total loss for the Lightning. It did re-sign minor-league goalie Brian Eklund and three forwards, including former NHL regular Jim Campbell.

Campbell, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right wing, has played 284 NHL games with Anaheim, St. Louis, Montreal, Chicago and Florida, scoring 61 goals with 136 assists. He posted back-to-back 20-goal seasons with the Blues in 1996-97 and 1997-98 but has struggled to keep a job in the NHL since.

Campbell, 32, spent the end of last season with the Lightning's minor-league affiliate in Springfield.

"(He) is a veteran player who brings significant NHL experience to our organization," general manager Jay Feaster said. "We believe that with the rule changes and the crackdown on obstruction, he will flourish within our system."

Feaster wanted to sign a goalie with NHL experience to place in Springfield, but for now, the No. 3 job belongs to Eklund. He went 14-23-0 with a 3.01 goals-against average in Springfield last season.

"Brian's challenge this year," Feaster said, "is to be one of the very best goalies in the AHL, lead his team in Springfield, and demonstrate to us that he is truly a legitimate No. 3 goalie in our organization knocking on the door of playing in the NHL."

The Lightning also signed two prospects, center Jason Jaspers and right wing Norm Milley. Both likely will start the season in Springfield, but Feaster said a good training camp could earn either a roster spot with the Lightning.

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: The Lightning will hold another FANtastic Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at the St. Pete Times Forum. Forward Tim Taylor is scheduled to sign autographs from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Fans can also get a glimpse of the ice laid down Thursday and ask questions of the ice crew from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Around the league

AVALANCHE: Defenseman John-Michael Liles, who made the All-Rookie team during the 2003-04 season, signed a one-year deal.

CANUCKS: Former Lightning goaltender Dan Cloutier signed a two-year, $5-million contract.

HURRICANES: Josef Vasicek, who led Carolina in goals, points, games played and game-winning goals in 2003-04, signed a two-year deal.

PANTHERS: Center Rostislav Olesz, a 2004 first-round pick, signed a three-year entry level contract.