The Tampa Bay Lightning announced this morning that they have reduced the roster by 25 players, and then cut two more players this afternoon, leaving 28 players remaining in training camp. The team will need to get down to 23 before the regular season starts.
This morning, the players cut were as follows:
The Lightning assigned forwards Olivier Archambault, Alex Barre-Boulet, Troy Bourke, Michael Bournival, Brady Brassart, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Alexey Lipanov, Kevin Lynch, Taylor Raddysh, Otto Somppi, Jonne Tammela and Dennis Yan, as well as defensemen Cal Foote, Cam Gaunce, Hubert Labrie, Dominik Masin, Oleg Sosunov, Matt Spencer, Ben Thomas, Carter Verhaeghe and Daniel Walcott and goaltenders Corbin Boes, Connor Ingram and Eddie Pasquale.
Later on in the day, the Lightning also cut forwards Andy Andreoff and Gabriel Dumont.
BriseBois said he wanted the team to start getting ready for Opening Night, needed to get down to 15 healthy forwards. With Andreoff and Dumont being assigned, now at 17 forwards w/ Callahan and Johnson injured. #Bolts https://t.co/G765eAT6zF— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) September 23, 2018
Of these players, Andreoff, Dumont, Verhaeghe, Gaunce, Pasquale, Bournival, and Walcott will require require waivers. Andreoff, Dumont, Verhaeghe, Gaunce, and Pasquale went on today at noon and clear tomorrow at noon. Andreoff and Dumont are probably the biggest risks to be claimed. Because Bournival and Walcott are both injured, neither will go on waivers until they are healthy.
This list doesn’t contain any major surprises, except for maybe Andreoff. Most of these players were slated to play in Syracuse this year, with a few likely heading to Orlando. Crunch camp gets underway on Tuesday, and they will now have a nearly full group to start preparing for the season.
Among the cuts, several players had strong showings in camp. Rookie Boris Katchouk is bringing a well-rounded game and special playmaking to Syracuse. Dennis Yan looks like he just needs his health to cooperate to finally show what he can be. Ross Colton, Carter Verhaeghe, and Alex Barré-Boulet all showed flashes of excellent play during the preseason.
The forwards still in camp who will be on the cut line in the next round include Cory Conacher, Adam Erne, Mathieu Joseph, Mitchell Stephens, and Alex Volkov. The newly acquired Danick Martel, who was claimed off of waivers from the Flyers yesterday, also falls into this group. On defense, the only bubble players are Erik Cernak and Slater Koekkoek. Martin Oullette is staying as a third goalie option but will head to Orlando at some point in the next week.
How many forward spots are available depends on how many defenders the team plans to carry this year. Last year, they carried eight for most of the season. This still seems a year early for Cernak to make the team but he’s made enough of a case to stick in camp a bit longer.
Assuming Cernak goes back to Syracuse and Koekkoek stays as the seventh defender, that would leave space for three of the forwards from the group listed above. That number will eventually become two when Ryan Callahan returns from injury in November.
As of now, Adam Erne seems to be the only lock to make the team. That would make him the 12th forward and leave the other players listed competing for roster spots that will likely consist of lots of time in the press box. Conacher and Martel are now the remaining waiver risks among the forward group, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get a spot. Martel might be considered a bit of a higher risk given that if he doesn’t make the team, the Flyers would almost certainly reclaim him on waivers and send him to their AHL club.
If we’re looking for players who could surprise us in the final days of camp, Cernak, Joseph, Stephens, and Volkov are at the top of the list. Cernak making the team as the 8th defender or even as the 7th ahead of Koekkoek isn’t out of the question. The coaches seem to like him and he’s played well. The issue there is that he likely wouldn’t get many minutes in the NHL because he’s not going to unseat one of the veterans just yet. And that means that he’ll be better served to go back to Syracuse and play top pairing minutes until the Lightning have more minutes to offer him.
Among the forwards, Joseph and Volkov have been impressive. I could make an argument for any of the three to be among the best fourteen forwards but that brings us to the same issue as with Cernak. Unless they’re going to get real NHL minutes, all are better served to go play lots of minutes in Syracuse. To make the team, they would likely have to jump past Erne and take his bottom six role. Given their skill sets, Joseph or Stephens seem the more likely of the three to do that.
This round of cuts matches expectations. The next week will tell us if we’re going to get any surprises as we get to the final roster. All of the remaining preseason games are against the Florida Panthers. The three game series will start on Tuesday in Tampa, continue on Thursday in Orlando, and finish on Saturday in Sunrise.