By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 19, 2001
Juha Ylonen sees many positives being traded from the Coyotes to the Lightning.
He likes Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella, who coached Ylonen as a Phoenix assistant. He said former Coyotes teammate and Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is "one of the best goalies in the league."
And Ylonen, whose name is pronounced YOO-hah YOO-loh-nehn, is looking forward to upping his ice time from the 14:05 he averaged last season.
Still, Ylonen, 29, said that when he got the news at about 10 p. m. Monday in his native Finland that he had been swapped for left wing Todd Warriner, he was "shocked."
"I didn't expect it to happen," the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward said. "It's the first time I've been traded. It's something new to me."
The Lightning hopes Ylonen brings an old-fashioned edge the team lacked last season.
"Juha is very strong on his skates and strong on the puck," Tortorella said. "We're trying to change the chemistry of our team, to be a grittier hockey team that doesn't give up the puck as much and is a tougher team to play."
Ylonen had nine goals and 14 assists in 69 games with 38 penalty minutes last season and was plus-10. He was the top scorer at last month's World Championships with 14 points on five goals and nine assists.
Still, the Lightning sees Ylonen as a defensive center or wing on the
third or fourth line, and as a penalty killer. Warriner,
27, struggled in those areas.
Warriner, a former first-round draft pick (fourth overall) of the Senators, had a terrible 2000-01 with 10 goals and 11 assists in 64 games. He had six goals in 36 games before a knee injury ended his season March 8.
With his offense suffering, Warriner, acquired in November
1999 for a third-round choice in the 2000 draft, was demoted and slipped into an uncomfortable fit on the fourth line.
"We look at our team now and it's a little difficult finding a spot for him," Lightning general manager Rick Dudley said. "It's not that Todd did anything wrong or fell off the map; we're just looking for more of a grinding player."
Coyotes general manager Cliff Fletcher said he was aware of Warriner's difficulties. But Fletcher is a Todd Warriner fan.
As Maple Leafs general manager, Fletcher included Warriner in a deal for Mats Sundin. Fletcher was a Lightning adviser when Warriner was sent to Tampa Bay.
"I have an idea of what he can do and how he can fit in," Fletcher said. "This is one role player traded for another."
For Ylonen, that role is well-defined. "I believe this will be a very good team next season," he said. "The thing for me is to do my best on the ice. All teams need good players in the dressing room to say the right thing at the right time. I'm more a player who can show on the ice."