LIGHTNING SIGN FREE AGENT GOALTENDER JOHAN HOLMQVIST
The 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent goaltender Johan Holmqvist to a one-year contract, Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster announced.
Holmqvist, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound native of Tolfta, Sweden, started seven games for his native country at the 2006 World Championships last month in Riga, Latvia. He posted a 5-2 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage en route to winning the Gold Medal and being named top goaltender at the tournament.
"At the end of the season we sent both Jeff Reese and Corey Schwab, our two goalie coaches, to the World Championships along with our Chief Scout Jake Goertzen," Feaster said. "They not only watched Johan play and lead his team to the Gold Medal, but they also attended some of his team's practices and then met with Johan personally. They unanimously recommended we sign him. Clearly, we feel as an organization we have done our homework on Johan.
"He is a player who has won championships at multiple levels of competition, and we are confident he is ready to challenge for a spot in Tampa. We are thrilled to welcome him to our organization."
Holmqvist spent the 2005-06 season with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Elite League and led the league in goals-against average with 1.95. He also ranked second in save percentage at .928 and was tied for sixth in shutouts with three. The former Swedish Junior of the Year (1997-98) was selected to the 2006 Swedish All-Star team.
Holmqvist spent the two previous seasons playing in the Swedish Elite League for Brynas, appearing in 68 games and registering a goals-against average of 2.83. Prior to returning to Europe Holmqvist, 28, played two seasons (2002-03, 2003-04) with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League and posted a 23-27-4 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. Before making his North American debut in 2000-01 he led Brynas to the 1998-99 Swedish Elite League Championship.
He played in four NHL games between 2000-01 and 2002-03 with the New York Rangers, posting a 4.32 GAA and a .868 SV%. He was a seventh-round pick, 175th overall, by the Rangers at the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.
During the 2002-03 season the Minnesota Wild acquired his rights and assigned him to the Aeros where he backstopped them on their way to the 2003 Calder Cup Championship and was awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy as AHL Playoff Most Valuable Player. During that post season he appeared in 23 games and recorded a 15-8 record with a 2.00 GAA and a .928 SV%. He appeared in eight games with Houston during the regular season with a 2.88 GAA and a .900 SV%. He began the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack and appeared in 35 contests with a 14-12-5 record. Holmqvist has played in 193 AHL games in his career with an 87-69-23 record.
Holmqvist has appeared in a total of eight World Championship games for Sweden in 2005 and 2006. He also played in six games at the 1998 World Junior Championships in Finland and finished the tournament with a 1.80 GAA.