The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned Czech defenseman Andrej Sustr to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, following a 2-1 shootout loss on Thursday night to the New York Islanders. From the team:
The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned defenseman Andrej Sustr to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Sustr, 23, has skated in 38 games with the Lightning this season, collecting seven assists and 12 penalty minutes. He recorded his first career NHL point (assist) against the Los Angeles Kings on October 15 earlier this season. The 6-foot-8, 216-pound defenseman tallied a career-best two assists on November 16 at Phoenix. Sustr has played in 40 career NHL games, all with Tampa Bay over the past two seasons.
The Plzen, Czech Republic native skated in eight games with the Crunch during the 2012-13 season, posting two goals and three points with eight penalty minutes. He also appeared in 18 playoff games with Syracuse, recording a pair of goals and seven points with 25 penalty minutes.
Sustr was signed as a free agent by the Lightning on March 21, 2013 out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He appeared in 81 career games over three seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, registering 15 goals and 51 points.
Sustr, who has bounced in and out of the Lightning line-up this season taking turns on the ice and in the press box, was sent down not for poor play, but for lack of a permanent roster spot with the Lightning. He's better served getting big minutes in the AHL then taking turns on the ice and eating popcorn, and he's only a phone call away should an injury befall one of the Lightning's top 8 defenseman, an issue the Bolts have been dealing with all season long.
Sustr is the only defenseman on the roster that is currently waiver-exempt, so for those wondering why Keith Aulie or Mark Barberio weren't sent down instead, it's because they've accrued enough games to require waivers for AHL assignment. While the risk is understandably low with Aulie being plucked (perhaps a little big bigger for Barberio) away by another team, the simplest and easiest solution is to take no risk at all and send Sustr down instead.
Erik Erlendsson sums it up well:
Regarding Sustr, he doesn't require waivers, only Dman on roster that doesn't and if Aulie is close, you have to make a roster move— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) January 17, 2014
There have been reports Steve Yzerman is trying to move Aulie (and Tom Pyatt), so if and when a deal is made, expect Sustr to be recalled. In that case, this reassignment may only be temporary. But it's also possible the team has decided Sustr needs some more time to adjust to the grind of a professional schedule; he's played only 81 NCAA games in 3 seasons, so at this point in the NHL season he's already doubled his typical yearly schedule. Whether this is a factor or not, this should not be viewed as a demotion; just standard roster juggling to maximize resources.