General Manager Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced a trade of minor league players. The Lightning have sent winger Jeremy Morin to the Arizona Coyotes for right-winger Stefan Fournier.
Morin has played in 43 games for the Syracuse Crunch this season, with nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points. He leaves the team as its 10th-leading scorer. Fournier, on the other hand, has played in 29 games for the Tucson Roadrunners, with two goals and two assists for four points. He also has 95 penalty minutes, which is 14th most in the AHL. Morin was a scoring-line player for the Crunch, while Fournier will be a fourth-liner that likes to fight — he has 7 fights in the AHL this year. (Fournier is also memorable for being captain on a certain Memorial Cup-winning Moosehead team along with Jonathan Drouin.)
Right now, you’re probably going “What the #&$%???” to this trade. I did the same thing when I initially looked at Fournier. I scratched my head, asked a couple of questions, and then finally stumbled across the answer to why this trade was made.
Early in the season, when the Lightning sent Erik Condra and Cory Conacher to the Crunch after training camp, there was a bit of a veteran issue in Syracuse. In the AHL, 13 of the 18 skaters in a lineup must be termed “development players.” If a team has more than five veterans, they are forced to scratch them. Goaltenders are not included in the veteran limits.
A development player has played 260 or less professional games in their career. There is also something of an intermediate step for players that have played 261 to 320 professional games. One of the 13 development players can be from that category. Any additional players that fall into the intermediate category would count as veterans.
That leaves five spots in the lineup for veteran players that have played 321 or more professional games. Of course, a team can exceed the 13 developmental players, and could theoretically have 18 development players on the team. It is only the veteran limit that they cannot exceed.
A player’s status in any of those three categories is determined at the beginning of the season and lasts for the entirety of the season. Only NHL and AHL regular season games are counted to determine a player’s status.
Jeremy Morin is one of the veterans on the team because he had 349 professional games entering the season. The Lightning didn’t have any of those intermediate players, so that left them with making decisions about which five veterans to play in any given game. The rest of the veterans that have played with the Crunch this season are as follows:
- F Cory Conacher
- F Erik Condra
- F Gabriel Dumont
- F Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
- F Tye McGinn
- D Matt Taormina
At times, some of that stress has been reduced by injuries and by call-ups to Tampa Bay. But at other times, coach Benoit Groulx has been forced to scratch players to have a compliant lineup. Tye McGinn’s injury after playing in only two games alleviated some of the issues that Groulx has faced.
McGinn is almost ready to return to the lineup. There’s also a distinct possibility that Dumont will be back with the team later in the season if the Lightning do not make it into the playoffs. Fournier is still classified as a development player, and won’t take up one of those veteran slots.
And that is why this trade makes sense for the Lightning.
Beyond that, here are some other things to note with the trade as well. Fournier will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but Morin will be a restricted free agent. There is no commitment to Fournier beyond just this season.
Correction: The article originally stated Morin would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. However, he has played enough NHL games in his career that he will remain a restricted free agent and will not reach unrestricted free agency until after the 2017-18 season.
Fournier also makes less money in the minor leagues than Morin. Morin has a $200,000 salary in the minors with a $225,000 guarantee. Fournier only makes $62,500. While the majority of the money has been paid out for the season, with a little over a month less, the Lightning still will save at least the $25,000 additional guarantee to Morin plus the difference in his salary and Fournier’s over the rest of the season.