The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they have recalled forward Cory Conacher from the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. This is Conacher’s second recall of the season. The Lightning called him up on October 30th for one game with several forwards dealing with injury concerns. He did not play and was re-assigned to Syracuse the following day. Conacher currently sits fourth in scoring for the Crunch with five goals and 12 points in 16 games played. His five goals are tied for third on the team.
We have not seen any indications yet that a player currently on the roster is injured. The team has been carrying just 12 forwards since re-assigning Alexander Volkov to the Syracuse Crunch after the Lightning’s trip to Sweden. The Lightning have been able to do this as they have been carrying two extra defensemen in Braydon Coburn and Jan Rutta on the roster with Luke Schenn having replaced Coburn on the blue line the past handful of games.
Carter Verhaeghe has been mostly in the lineup, but was being scratched while Volkov was up with the team. However, in 12 games, Verhaeghe has only registered one assist. He’s had some chances to put the puck in the back of the net, but has had some bad luck finishing.
Despite that, his possession stats have looked generally good even though he has been shuffled all over the line up throughout the season. His worst stretch in terms of possession was when he was centering the fourth line between Pat Maroon and Luke Witkowski. The Witkowski experiment at forward proved to be a failure as he was unable to generate any real possession of the puck. His poor performance was too much for Verhaeghe to overcome.
Verhaeghe was expected to come in and provide some depth scoring this year. Prior to last season, Verhaeghe’s career highs in the AHL were 58 games, 17 goals, 31 assists, and 48 points set in 2017-18. He doubled up his goal scoring with 34 goals and also set new highs with 48 assists, 82 points and 76 games played. So far, he has not been able to translate his AHL success into NHL scoring.
Conacher could just be up to serve as the 13th forward and hang out in the press box while Verhaeghe continues to get his shot. But Conacher can be ready to step in and replace him whenever the coaches feel Verhaeghe needs to take a seat. At a minimum, Conacher will provide some competitive pressure on Verhaeghe to up his game. At 29 years old, Conacher is a fully developed player and the coaching staff knows what they have in him. 2017-18 was the last season in which he got significant NHL time, and he recorded eight goals and 12 points in 36 games which isn’t bad for a depth forward.
From a salary cap and financial standpoint, Conacher is also one of the better options for the Lightning to recall, especially if he is going to serve popcorn. Conacher has a cap hit of $700,000 and is on a one-way contract. The only other forwards with a cap hit that low are Gemel Smith, Danick Martel, and Chris Mueller. Those three are on two-way contracts though and are making less money in the AHL while Conacher makes the same amount in the NHL and the AHL. Alex Barre-Boulet is putting up slightly better offensive numbers in the AHL than Conacher, but he also showed in the pre-season that he is probably not ready for the NHL just yet.
UPDATE: Pierre LeBrun made it aware on Twitter that the Lightning have called up Conacher as an injury precaution as some of the Bolts are currently banged up.
Precaution, a couple of banged-up guys on the Bolts right now.. .— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 19, 2019