On Thursday, the Lightning continued to trim their roster as they assigned goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis to Syracuse. The move leaves the Lightning with 27 players in camp (and one unsigned restricted free agent, Nikita Kucherov, in Russia).
This move is not a surprise as the Lightning were planning on starting the season with the same goaltending duo that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Ben Bishop, despite rumors over the summer that he might be moved, is the number one starter and Andrei Vasilevskiy will be his backup.
Gudlevskis,a 5th round pick in 2013, will be spending his 4th season with the Syracuse Crunch, having gone 59-37-12 in 121 games in the AHL. He also represented the Lightning affiliate in the AHL All-Star game in 2016. His experience should make him the defacto number one netminder in Syracuse, but he will have to hold off up and coming prospect Adam Wilcox.
This is a big season ahead for Gudlevskis. He has shined in his limited NHL appearances going 1-0-1 in two starts with a sparkling 1.50 GAA and .957 save percentage. However, he seems to have been passed over by Vasilevsky on the organizational depth chart. Vasy is locked up for 4 more seasons and seems to be the heir apparent should Bishop leave for the riches of free agency.
A strong season in Syracuse could propel the big Latvian into the backup role in Tampa next year. Or, with the organization looking to make a deal to shed some salary, he could be an attractive piece to entice a team to take Valtteri Filppula or Jason Garrison’s contract off of the Lightning’s hands.