Julien BriseBois’ first official transaction as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s new general manager was a big one, placing 24-year old Jake Dotchin on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract.
Joe Smith of the Athletic initially reported that Dotchin wasn’t on the ice with his assigned group at the start of training camp.
Haven’t seen Jake Dotchin on ice with his group. #TBLightning— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 14, 2018
Jake Dotchin hasn’t been with any of the groups on the ice, or the injured players in red. #TBLightning hasn’t yet given an official update on his status. Cooper said Thursday Callahan was only player who finished season with them that wasn’t fully available to start camp.— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 14, 2018
The Lightning cleared up the uncertainty by announcing that Dotchin was on unconditional waivers. According to Smith, the Lightning cited the reason for termination as a “material breach of contract”, and will not be commenting any further on the matter.
Dotchin, who was on the second year of a two-year standard contract, was a 6th round pick of the Lightning back in 2012. He was scheduled to become an RFA at the end of this season.
Almost a year ago today, the Lightning announced Dotchin wouldn’t play a preseason game after he violated a team rule. Here’s what was written from last year’s Quick Strikes: [Raw Charge]
What is going on with Jake Dotchin? Joe Smith posed that question to the organization, and got this puzzling response: “Dotchin, 23, violated an unspecified team rule, according to the Lightning. The infraction won’t impact his spot on the roster or standing with the organization. Dotchin has continued to practice, including Sunday afternoon.” [Tampa Bay Times]
According to the NHL’s CBA, here are the conditions for which a club would terminate a player’s standard player contract:
The club may terminate the standard player contract if the player should fail, refuse, or neglect to obey the Club’s rules governing training and conduct of players, if such failure, refusal, or neglect should constitute a material breach of this standard player contract. [NHL.com]
As far as exactly what Dotchin did that the Lightning considered a breach of contract, Elliotte Friedman tweeted that it might have been a conditioning issue:
Certainly, more will become known as the days go by. But, apparently, TB was extremely unhappy with Dotchin’s conditioning at arrival. We will see how the process plays out— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 14, 2018
Dotchin would have been fighting for a blueline spot anyhow, but his departure alleviates some pressure from Slater Koekkoek who will almost certainly be the seventh defender on the roster.
On the ice, Dotchin’s departure leaves the Lightning shorthanded on the right side of defense. Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi are the only two natural righties who are likely to play NHL minutes this season. The move today likely locks in Mikhail Sergachev on the right side where he played at the end of last season and in the playoffs.
If any of those three should suffer an injury during the regular season, the coaches would probably turn to Braydon Coburn to move to the right side and have Slater Koekkoek fill the spot he vacated on the left. After Stralman and Girardi, the next two right handed defenders on the depth chart would be Erik Cernak and Cal Foote.
Neither has played NHL minutes and both are expected to be key contributors in Syracuse this year. Losing Dotchin makes it slightly more likely that one of them might need to move up the NHL sooner than expected if the Lightning suffer multiple blue line injuries.
As of yet, we know very little about the Lightning’s decision to move on from Dotchin. Look for more on that in the coming days.