In an expected but still exciting move, it's been announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning has signed Dylan Blujus to a three-year entry-level contract. There's a good chance that the blueliner will be slated for Syracuse. Blujus would be a welcome infusion of talent to the Crunch's defensive core, especially after last season's rather lack-luster group that included under-performing players like rookies Nikita Nesterov and Artem Sergeev, as well as Dmitry Korobov.
Nesterov ended his first season in the AHL with four goals, 12 assists and 39 penalty minutes. He started the season strong, finding time on what was a fully-loaded power play unit with forwards like Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov. But once Kucherov got called up to Tampa Bay and Namestnikov suffered a broken hand that kept him out of the line up for a month, Nesterov lost his place on the unit and fell out of the general roster rotation. He was healthy scratched quite a bit and only played in 54 games.
Sergeev played 68 of the Crunch's 76 games and scored 10 points. His -10 +/- stat was second-worst on the team among defensemen. Korobov ended the season with a -12. Although he was the Crunch's top-scoring defenseman with 26 points, his liability on the blue line became a point of frustration among Crunch fans. Korobov eventually found himself the subject of his own "screaming baby" meme that circulated amongst the fans.
Although Blujus is only 20, he could give a much-needed bump to the Crunch's defenders behind standouts like rookie Luke Witkowski and veteran JP Cote. Of interest especially to New Yorkers is that Blujus is a Buffalo, NY native. Syracuse has always been especially welcoming of "local kids," and it's always fun for these guys to have their families close.
Here's the official release from the Lightning:
LIGHTNING SIGN DEFENSEMAN DYLAN BLUJUS TO ENTRY LEVEL CONTRACT
TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Dylan Blujus to a three-year entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Blujus, 20, skated in 55 games with the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League during the 2013-14 season, collecting four goals and 30 points to go along with 56 penalty minutes. He led all Battalion defensemen for assists with 26. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman also skated in 22 playoff games for North Bay, posting four goals and 10 points. Blujus led all North Bay defensemen for playoff goals, with three of his four tallies coming on the man-advantage. He helped guide the Battalion to the OHL Championships against the Guelph Storm.
The Buffalo, New York native has played in 256 career OHL games over four seasons with Brampton and North Bay, amassing 17 goals and 119 points. He recorded a career-best plus-12 rating in 2013-14.
Blujus was selected by the Lightning in the second round, 40th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.