Antero Niittymaki, beloved netminder known as "Frank", signed earlier today with the San Jose Sharks. The contract is believed to be for two years. While many fans would have liked to have seen Frank retained by the Bolts, I guess the best news with this signing is that he is no longer in the East and will not be a force to deal with in the Southeast Division that much.
But with the loss of Niitymaki, the Lightning did not sit idle and wait for the free-agency dust to clear. Instead, they opted to sign goaltender Dan Ellis. Ellis had played for the Nashville Predators the past three seasons and was traded earlier this week to the Canadiens.
Ellis has already posted, via his Twitter account, about his excitement in joining the Lightning. One of the aspects that plays into hsi excitement is re-joining former team mate and friend Mike Smith. The two played together for the Iowa Stars about 5 years ago.
The official team press release is below the fold.
LIGHTNING SIGN FREE AGENT GOALTENDER DAN ELLIS
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning signed goaltender Dan Ellis to a two-year contract today, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced.
“We are very pleased to sign Dan today,” Yzerman said. “We expect him to come in and compete for playing time with Mike Smith. This is a great opportunity for Dan and we look forward to him making the most of it. From the entire Lightning organization, I’d like to welcome Dan to Tampa Bay.”
“I’m very excited about coming to Tampa Bay,” Ellis said. “To me, the Lightning are an up-and-coming team that has all the right pieces. They have great scoring and defensive talent. They picked up a world-class coach and general manager this summer and it is a team that is headed in the right direction. As soon as I saw that they quickly became my number one option.”
Ellis, 6-foot, 193 pounds, has played in 111 career NHL games with the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, posting a 50-42-8 record. He has also registered a .912 save percentage with a 2.64 goals-against average with 10 shutouts. Ellis spent the previous three seasons with the Predators. He played in six Stanley Cup Playoff games with Nashville in 2008, posting a .938 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average.
A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Ellis posted his best season in 2007-08 when he posted a 23-10-3 record with six shutouts, a .924 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average. That season he led the NHL in save percentage and was tied for third in shutouts. Ellis also won his first seven career starts.
Last season Ellis, 30, played in 31 games with the Predators. He posted a 15-13-1 record with a .909 save percentage, 2.69 goals-against average and one shutout. Ellis’ number for wins, save percentage and goals-against average were all the second-highest of his career.
Ellis was named the most valuable player of the ECHL playoffs and most valuable player of the Kelly Cup Finals during the 2004 season after leading Idaho to the league championship and posting a 13-3 record and a 1.86 goals-against average. He played his amateur hockey at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he was named to the CCHA Second All-Star Team in 2001-02.
He was drafted by Dallas in the second round, 60th overall, of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed by Nashville as a free agent on July 7, 2007.