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What's next for the Lightning's AHL affilate?

With the news of cuts from Tampa Bay's camp coming down, eyes shift to Syracuse to see what the prospects can do in the AHL.

Richard Panik is among the #Tampacuse forward crop that may or may not stick in Tampa.
Richard Panik is among the #Tampacuse forward crop that may or may not stick in Tampa.
Photo ©Scott Thomas and used with permission

As their preseason lumbers on, the Tampa Bay Lightning has started to make substantial cuts to their training camp roster. Three players were cut on September 17thAdam Erne was returned to his junior team on the 20th, and 18 players were cut this past Saturday afternoon. Saturday night, four more cuts were made. There's surely more cuts to follow in the coming week, as Tampa Bay still needs to trim their roster by at least 13 players.

So, the logical question is: what's next for those players who have been cut?

Of the guys cut so far, 20 of them are headed for the training camp for the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa's AHL affiliate. Goalies Riku Helenius and Cedrick Desjardins needed to clear waivers before being assigned, which they did at noon on Sunday. Forward Geoff Walker, who was signed earlier this summer as a way to increase the vet presence in Syracuse, will need to clear before being assigned. He went on waivers Sunday afternoon.

The Crunch will start off their training camp in Newfoundland, a tradition that is now three seasons old. In fact, no one from the Crunch will even set a foot in Syracuse until the Mary Brown Tournament against the St. John's IceCaps is over. Players still in Lightning camp who are already cut or who are cut in the next week will be flying directly from Tampa Bay to St. John's.

Speaking of cuts, last night, Bolt Prospects tweeted the following:

So, it sounds like these initial additions to the Crunch are going to have a big load on their shoulders right away, as the pipeline gets narrower and narrower and players are kept for longer periods of time. Syracuse is going to be searching for players to fill pretty substantial gaps, and that search is definitely going to start as soon as possible. With guys like Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio and Brett Connolly/Ondrej Palat/Richard Panik either definitely or probably sticking in Tampa, the Crunch will be looking for strong AHL camp performances from prospects and vets alike. A lot of eyes this season are going to be on an affiliate that has made it to the Calder Cup finals for two years in a row (with one of those years, of course, seeing Tampa's AHL team winning it all).

The team-building exercises of this week for those in St. John's will culminate in a three-game series against the IceCaps. The dates, times and locations are as follows:

Thursday, September 26 at 5:30 p.m. - Mile One Centre
Saturday, September 28 at 3:30 p.m. - Clarenville Events Centre
Sunday, September 29 at 2:30 p.m. - Mile One Centre
(All times listed are Eastern)

Once this series is over, players will reportedly touch down in Syracuse at the beginning of the first week in October, where they'll have a brief day to find apartments and get their lives in order. The portion of training camp that will take place in the City of Syracuse will then open October 2nd. All practices are open to the public and are held at the War Memorial in Syracuse.

The Crunch's regular AHL season schedule starts at Binghamton, NY on October 5th. The Crunch will open at home on October 12th against the Rochester Americans, a game that will kick off the team's celebration of their 20th anniversary season. In addition to the anniversary festivities, banners will be raised to celebrate the team's 2012-2013 East Division title and the Crunch's first Conference title in franchise history.