Goaltender Jaroslav Janus, drafted by the Lightning during the 2009 NHL draft, has been signed by the Lightning to his standard three-year rookie contract. Janus is 7-4-2 in 13 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League this season.
Janus started the season with the Norfolk Admirals (the Lightning's AHL affiliate) on a try-out basis, but with Dustin Tokarski and Riku Helenius in front of him, Janus only appeared in 2 games and was not going to see much playing time with both netminders performing well.
So, Janus found himself returned to juniors and has posted a 2.81 GAA with a .918 save percentage while in net for the Otters.
Now, I don't want to speculate too wildly here as if there is a deeper meaning to the signing, though it's easy to assume the writing is on the wall with the rumors that surfaced last month about goaltender Mike Smith, but the truth is is the seems to be the standard operating procedure for General Manager Brian Lawton. After all, he signed Tokarski to his rookie-contract at about the same time a year ago (December 30th, 2008).
But it's easy to wonder if Lawton is trying to add depth to the system because of an imminent change. If Smith departs later in the season or after the season, and Antero Niittymaki goes into the unrestricted free agency pool (he is only on a one-year contract, after all)... Having the system stocked with replacement parts is vital.
and indeed, with Smith's improved play as of late -- his trade value has risen somewhat. But of course, it's a buyers market for goalies at current as several big names are available.
It's all the more reason to realize this is just a signing and not a precursor to a change in goal.