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Lightning Send Bulk of Syracuse Roster to Crunch Camp

The Tampa Bay Lightning reduced their training camp roster by 23 this weekend. All players reported to training camp with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. The Crunch’s camp will take place in Lyon, France, for the second consecutive season.

Returning to Syracuse:

D Dylan Blujus
F Mike Blunden
F David Broll
D Charlie Dodero (AHL contract)
D Jake Dotchin
F Yanni Gourde
F Henri Ikonen
F Ryan Martindale (tryout)
D Joey Mormina (AHL contract)
F Philippe Paradis
F Tanner Richard
F Joel Vermin
G Allen York (AHL contract)

Notes: There really are no surprises here as the Lightning are deep and established and anyone who was on the bubble remains in Tampa. Blunden cleared waivers, which isn’t unexpected, but had he not cleared that would hurt the Crunch. Blunden was an offensive contributor for Syracuse last year before going down for the season with an injury. Prospects like Blujus, Dotchin, and Richard may get longer looks next season.

New players assigned to Syracuse:

F Cam Darcy (from QMJHL Sherbrooke)
D Anthony DeAngelo (from OHL Sault Ste Marie)
F Adam Erne (from QMJHL Quebec)
F Brian Hart (from Harvard University)
F Tye McGinn (from NHL Sharks/Coyotes)
F Matt Peca (from Quinnipiac University)
F Jeff Tambellini (from Vaxjo, Sweden)
D Matt Taormina (from AHL Worcester)
D Daniel Walcott (from AHL Blainville-Boisbriand)
G Adam Wilcox (from the University of Minnesota)

Notes: McGinn, Tambellini, and Taormina all cleared waivers, which helps Syracuse immensely. McGinn was really the only worry there as he spent all of last season in the NHL with San Jose and Arizona. All give the Crunch a veteran presence capable of producing points – something they were missing the last two years in bulk. Prospects Peca, DeAngelo, and Erne were highly likely to end up in Syracuse anyway, but their exit from Lightning camp is possibly a little earlier than expected. Had the Crunch not been headed to France, they may have stuck around. Peca and DeAngelo did enough to get more looks, and Erne was once thought to push for time because he was a power forward.

Players still in Tampa Bay include at least one surprise – Brayden Point. The junior-or-NHL eligible center is getting an extended look with the Lightning though the big club is overflowing with capable forwards and Point’s Moose Jaw Warriors are already underway. He could end up back in Saskatchewan by the weekend, however. Point already had an NHL contract in his back pocket, so the extended stay is not to make a contract decision. He’s played well enough to get more time and the experience is invaluable. Moose Jaw doesn’t play again until Saturday.

Others include:

Forwards (will keep 13 or 14):

1. F Mike Angelidis (Syracuse’s captain sticks around… for now)
2. F Brian Boyle
3. F JT Brown
4. F Ryan Callahan
5. F Erik Condra
6. F Jonathan Drouin
7. F Valtteri Filppula
8. F Tyler Johnson
9. F Alex Killorn
10. F Nikita Kucherov
11. F Jonathan Marchessault (Syracuse’s leading scorer from last year must clear waivers to be reassigned to Crunch)
12. F Vlad Namestnikov
13. F Ondrej Palat
14. F Cedric Paquette
15. F Brayden Point (Great experience for the teenager)
16. F Steven Stamkos

Notes: Angelidis being kept around is somewhat surprising as he’s all but certain to join the Crunch. Maybe he didn’t want to re-visit France this year or maybe this is a reward for the immeasurable impact he has on the young Crunch roster. Marchessault is good enough to play in the NHL somewhere, but does Tampa Bay have room? It could be a Richard Panik situation where the Lightning try to sneak him through waivers, though Panik last year had considerably more NHL upside than Marchessault does this year. Step 1 here is figuring out the top-14; Step 2 is figuring out who actually plays, which will be tough.

Guess: Point and Angelidis leave and Marchessault is kept with the big club as a frequent healthy scratch as injury insurance.

Most likely to be traded: Usually when teams need to make room for youth, it’s the older, expensive vets that are dealt. Last year it was Eric Brewer. Filppula is on the way down, albeit gradually, and the Lightning have younger versions available. There is that no-trade clause, however, plus the fact Yzerman values Filppula’s influence on the roster.

Defense (will keep 7-8):

1. D Matt Carle
2. D Braydon Coburn
3. D Jason Garrison
4. D Victor Hedman
5. D Slater Koekkoek
6. D Nikita Nesterov
7. D Anton Stralman
8. D Andrej Sustr
9. D Luke Witkowski (requires waivers to be reassigned to Crunch)

Notes: Unless the d-corps is based solely on meritocracy, Koekkoek is headed back to Syracuse where he can get a hoard of ice time before he’s up for good. He’s arguably ready for third pair duty now before working his way up to the top-3 in a few years. He’ll be the first call-up, to be sure. Witkowski brings a needed physical presence that fellow third pairers Nesterov, Carle, and Sustr don’t have. Nesterov helps the power play, Carle brings experience, and Sustr, who was just re-signed to a 2-year deal, is good on the penalty kill. Of those four, Nesterov and Witkowski are trending up, and Carle and Sustr are trending down. Carle, who is the Filppula of the defense except he doesn’t play as big a comparative role, seems like injury insurance at this point. Sustr is waiver eligible and would likely be claimed. Nesterov could move to Syracuse without going through waivers, but again, the Lightning like his power play presence and he unlike Sustr, he did well in the playoffs.

Most likely to be traded: Carle is the most expensive defenseman on the roster and doesn’t play top-4 minutes, the power play, or in a match-up role. He’s best in limited minutes and serving as a mentor for young defensemen. He wasn’t moved at the draft, so he could be kept until the trade deadline when a team is desperate for defensive help and the Lightning have Koekkoek banging down the door. Sustr is a darkhorse to be dealt, but Yzerman has been burned by lack of defensive depth before and will ensure it doesn’t happen again. Sustr could find himself in the press box a lot this year if he doesn’t turn things around.

Guess: Koekkoek (Eric DuBose photo) goes to Syracuse, Carle gets the left side on the third pair, and Sustr, Nesterov, and Witkowski play in a rotation until one emerges, someone is injured, or Carle is dealt. Even then, Koekkoek will go flying by sooner than later with DeAngelo not too far behind.

Goaltenders (will keep 2):

G Ben Bishop
G Kristers Gudlevskis
G Kevin Poulin (claimed off waivers from NYI)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy (headed to injured reserve)

Notes: Ray Emery’s night in Dallas sealed his fate and he was released. In comes Kevin Poulin, who could be a stop-gap until Vasilevskiy is healthy and up to form. Bishop is the unquestioned No. 1. The only drama here is if Gudlevskis outplays Poulin enough for Yzerman to go with only 2 NHL-ready goalies in the system until Vasilevskiy is ready.

Guess: Depth is a wonderful thing. Poulin gets the job and Gudlevskis gets a spot start or two for the Lightning in the weeks while Vasilevskiy is out if the club isn’t completely sold on Poulin, or they just want to see more of Kristers. Gudlevskis keeps developing with Wilcox in Syracuse rather than filling water bottles on the Lightning bench.