Breaking: Just In Another Top Experienced Tampa Bay Lightning Star Confirm To Leave The Club

Former Lightning Prospect Ilya Usau Signs with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL

 

After being waived by the Tampa Bay Lightning to terminate his contract last month, Belarusian prospect Ilya Usau has signed with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL. The club confirmed the signing on their website.

The 22-year-old returns to Dinamo Minsk, where he previously impressed Lightning scouts by scoring 26 points (9 goals, 17 assists) as a 20-year-old in the 2021-22 season. Tampa Bay signed him to a three-year contract in March 2022, coinciding with the trade of Mathieu Joseph to Ottawa for Nick Paul.

Usau, who has also been referred to as Usov, is familiar with North American hockey, having been raised in Colorado and playing prep hockey in the U.S. He spent a season with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, tallying 22 goals and 30 assists in 58 games.

His rookie season with the Syracuse Crunch in 2022-23 was promising, with 4 goals and 12 assists in 57 games. However, he struggled to build on this, posting 14 points in 47 games last season and playing sparingly in the latter half and playoffs. His move back to the KHL might hinder his NHL prospects, but at 22, he could still attract attention if he performs well.

If Usau returns to the NHL, he will be an unrestricted free agent, as the Lightning relinquished their rights by terminating his contract. He joins former Bolt Alexander Volkov at Dinamo Minsk, who scored 19 goals for the team last season.

Despite Usau’s departure and Hugo Alnefelt’s potential return to Sweden, the Lightning are expected to continue signing European prospects. The transfer rules allow them to add seasoned professionals to their roster. General Manager Julien BriseBois aims to use all available avenues to bolster the organization.

By ending Usau’s contract early, the Lightning freed up a contract spot. According to Cap Friendly, they have 32 of their 50 contract spots filled. These spots will likely be filled by re-signing minor-league restricted free agents and signing prospects like McKade Webster and possibly Nick Capone. Additionally, if Eamon Powell decides against returning to Boston College, a spot will be needed for him.

As the NHL combine continues in Buffalo, the Lightning’s focus will soon shift to the first buyout window opening 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final concludes, running through June 30th. By then, decisions on qualifying offers for pending RFAs and free agency plans, including Steven Stamkos’ future, are expected to be made.

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