Jaroslav Janus explores European options

Jaroslav Janus (shown here in September 2011) will be exploring his options in Europe. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Former 1st round draft pick Riku Helenius is back in North America, with the Tampa Bay Lightning planning to have him play with the Syracuse Crunch in 2012-13. This displaces the netminding tandem that had been in place with the Bolts AHL affiliate last season, that of Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus.

With Tokarski under contract, it has made Janus the odd-man out. The restricted free agent has been accessing his options most of the summer and it appears he will play in Europe this upcoming season. From Damian Cristodero's story:

Assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said Thursday that the team and Janus "mutually agreed the best thing ... is for him to play as many games as possible next year. We told the agent we would help any way we could to help achieve that. I think they're looking in Europe."

What gets me with all this is the reversal-of-fortune for the goaltenders and how it can be seen as a testament toward the difference in the organization from then to now.

After making his North American debut for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL in 2007-08, Riku Helenius had been bounced around in 2008-09. He played with three different ECHL clubs, the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL and saw minutes with the Lightning. That did not help his development in the least.

Jaroslav Janus was drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 NHL draft by former GM Brian Lawton. Janus was playing for the Erie Otters and also played for Slovakia in the World Junior Championships... That performance earned him a professional contract. Janus was then sent to the Norfolk Admirals, where Tokarski and Helenius had been splitting duties... But the Lightning seemed to believe Helenius development had topped out.

The writing was on the wall and Helenius was allowed to depart the club for Europe, while Janus spent time over the last three seasons in the AHL and ECHL (Florida Everblades).

With the Helenius signing in June, things reversed. Janus became the odd-man-out. The difference this time is that it doesn't look like the Lightning organization gave up on him. And really, why should they have? He'll be all of 23 come September, posted a goals-against average of 2.36, and a .914 save percentage last season for the Ads. Assistant GM Julien BriseBois had been trying to sign Janus (a restricted free agent) in spite of the potential crowded bench in Syracuse and the complications it would pose.

The Lightning retains his rights as a restricted free agent.

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