Today the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forwards Gabriel Dumont and Adam Erne as well as defenseman Jake Dotchin to the Syracuse Crunch. These transactions may be short lived, however, because all three could be recalled to the Lightning in the next two hours.
So why are these transactions being made? For a player from the NHL to be eligible for the AHL playoffs, they must be on an AHL roster at 3pm today.
With Dotchin and Erne being waiver exempt, they were easy decisions to move down before the deadline without risk of losing them. Dumont required waivers, and was placed on waivers yesterday at noon so that he would clear waivers today and be eligible to be sent to Syracuse.
After the NHL trade deadline, NHL teams are only allowed four normal call-ups from the AHL. There are exceptions for emergency recalls when the number of healthy players for a position group falls below a certain number due to injury, illness, or league suspension — 12 forwards, 6 defenseman, or 2 goalies. Those recalls don’t count against the four normal call-ups, and a player called up under emergency situations would have to be immediately returned to the AHL should the team’s healthy players rise above the minimum numbers for a position group.
The Lightning will burn at least two of their call-ups by bringing Dumont and Erne back to the Lightning. By sending both down, the Lightning would be short a forward on the roster after the trade of Valtteri Filppula. With Mark Streit being sent back out immediately to Pittsburgh in a subsequent trade, Dotchin should also return to the Bolts until the end of the season. That’s not a guarantee though as Luke Witkowski could step in to the line up instead.
Coupled with the acquisition of Byron Froese in the Brian Boyle deal, the Syracuse Crunch are looking poised to have a powerhouse team in the playoffs. The Crunch currently sit first in the North Division, two points ahead of the Albany Devils and four points ahead of the Toronto Marlies.
This is just a very rough guess, but come playoff time, the Crunch’s line up could look a little something like this:
Cory Conacher - Byron Froese - Yanni Gourde
Adam Erne - Matt Peca - Erik Condra
Mike Halmo - Tanner Richard - Gabriel Dumont
Tye McGinn - Michael Bournival - Joel Vermin
Matt Taormina - Jake Dotchin
Slater Koekkoek - Dylan Blujus
Adam Comrie - Dominik Masin
Mike McKenna - Kristers Gudlevskis
Tye McGinn and Dylan Blujus are close to being back from injuries that have kept them out for a long stretch of the season. It does mean that some players that have been solid contributors to the Crunch this year are forced out of the lineup. Ben Thomas and Daniel Walcott have been surprisingly solid young defensemen in the bottom of the lineup, and it’s possible one or both of them could find their way into the lineup at some point. Mathieu Brodeur (no relation to the goalie) has also been a solid fill-in as well.
Conacher and Gourde have been two of the Crunch’s best offensive threats all season, and pairing them with the bigger Froese at center gives them the size they need on that line. Erne is a power forward, and Condra has shown a scorer’s touch in the AHL. The two of them would be a good compliment to the speedy, skilled Peca.
The third line provides a good defensive unit that also has offensive upside. Halmo has scored 14 goals this year. Dumont was also scoring at a half-point-per-game pace before he came up to join the Lightning in January. Richard is also a playmaking center who seems to create assists wherever he goes. The fourth line also has a good amount of AHL skill with McGinn and Vermin, centered by Bournival. They would probably take a more defensive role against opposing top lines, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to contribute offensively either.
Taormina is the top scorer for the Crunch in terms of total points, though not in points per game. He easily leads the Crunch’s blueline in offense. Dotchin has learned valuable lessons playing in the NHL, and he should be able to take those back and apply them to be a solid partner for Taormina.
Koekkoek should have been in the NHL a lot more this year. Instead he’s toiled away in the AHL. Paired with Blujus, who is in a similar mold to Dotchin, but a little less skilled, makes for a potent second pairing. Comrie is an offense first defenseman and has been a valuable member of the second power play unit for the Crunch. With Masin he gets a stay-at-home defender that likes to hit on occasion.
In net, it will be just acquired Mike McKenna down the stretch. Gudlevskis made a name for himself with his near-robbery of a game for Team Latvia against Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Since then, his trajectory has been all over the place as he has battled consistency issues. He currently sports an .889 save percentage and a 10-8-6 record.
With the addition of McKenna in net and Froese at the top center spot to go with the reinforcements from the NHL, the Syracuse Crunch are poised for a deep run into the playoffs and towards the Calder Cup. We’ve seen the benefits that winning in the minors does for prospects. Players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Vladislav Namestnikov, J.T. Brown, Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr, and others greatly benefited from learning what it takes to win in professional hockey.