News has broken this evening that both forward Vladislav Namestnikov and defenseman Luke Witkowski have been re-signed to one-year, two-way deals:
TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov and defenseman Luke Witkowski to a one-year, two-way contracts, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Namestnikov, 22, skated in 43 games with the Lightning during the 2014-15 regular season, posting nine goals and 16 points to go along with 13 penalty minutes. The 6-foot, 182-pound forward set career highs for games played, goals, assists (seven) and points (16) during the regular season. Namestnikov scored his first career NHL goal on October 13 against the Montreal Canadiens last season. He appeared in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2015, recording one assist.
The Zhukovskiy, Russia native played in 34 games with the Syracuse Crunch during the 2014-15 season, registering 14 goals and 35 points. Namestnikov represented the Crunch at the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic. He has played in 134 career AHL games, all with Syracuse over the past two seasons, recording 40 goals and 104 points.
Namestnikov was selected by the Lightning in the first round, 27th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.
Witkowski, 25, played in 16 games with the Lightning during the 2014-15 season, recording 15 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound defenseman made his NHL debut on January 20 against the Vancouver Canucks last season. Witkowski landed 37 hits and blocked 20 shots in his 16 games with the Bolts.
The Holland, Michigan native skated in 50 games with the Crunch last season, collecting two goals and eight points to go along with 91 penalty minutes. Witkowski ranked tied for seventh on the Crunch for penalty minutes. He also skated in three Calder Cup Playoff games with Syracuse in 2015, posting one assist and four penalty minutes. Witkowski has appeared in 129 career AHL games, all with the Crunch over the past three seasons, tallying four goals and 20 points to go along with 299 penalty minutes.
Witkowski was selected by the Lightning in the sixth round, 160th overall, at the 2008 NHL Draft.
The one-year, two-way status of both of these players points to Tampa's strong depth. Though both have developed admirably within the system, one could say that the Lightning has sent a message that they need to find their permanent places rather quickly. With these deals, one might be reminded of Brett Connolly (traded to Boston at the deadline in 2015), Richard Panik (claimed off of waivers by Toronto in October of 2014), and Mark Barberio (not qualified at the end of this past season, signed with Montreal). All three of those players were given one-year deals, and they either found themselves sent to the AHL (Panik), traded (Connolly), or used sparingly (Barberio).
Namestnikov and Witkowski were the last two players on the Lightning's RFA list who were qualified but not yet signed. Their two-way statuses mean that each could be sent down to AHL Syracuse and receive a lower salary at the AHL level, but both are now waiver-eligible, which means each player would have to clear waivers before being sent down. Any team that makes a waiver claim on a player must keep them up in the NHL, however. Witkowski might have a chance to pass through in the beginning of the season, as most NHL rosters will be set at that point with defensemen. Namestnikov, however, stands a very good chance of being claimed at any point, so the chances of him strengthening Syracuse's roster are probably slim.