Update, 11/3/19: Luke Witkowski has cleared waivers and has been assigned to Syracuse. The Crunch play in Hershey on Sunday.
Luke Witkowski reassigned to @SyracuseCrunch after clearing waivers. Asked Cooper about Witkowski on waivers, and he said they wanted to give some guys a look as they’re trying to find “the right mix.”— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) November 3, 2019
Here’s the text of our original article on the recent organizational moves:
The Tampa Bay Lightning have placed forward/defenseman Luke Witkowski on waivers. The team is headed to Sweden today to take on the Buffalo Sabres in two games next Friday and Saturday. However, it looks like Witkowski will not be making the trip. If he clears waivers, then it would be a good bet that he’ll be assigned to the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. If he’s claimed, then he’d be headed to another NHL team.
This move shouldn’t be much of a surprise. While Witkowski did bring some nice flexibility to the roster by being able to play forward and defense, he was not exactly getting the job done on the ice. While he has recorded a goal and two assists, he has been near or at the bottom of the possession statistics for the whole season among the entirety of the Lightning roster. He has also been at the bottom in terms of TOI per game at 8:48.
It seemed that the coaches wanted to give him every chance to keep his spot on the fourth line. He did bring a physical element to the fourth line, but he also didn’t do much with his hitting. He had also taken a few bad penalties in the past three or four games. Ironically, his best game of the season might have been Wednesday night when he moved to the blue line after Victor Hedman left with injury.
Injuries to Hedman, Pat Maroon, and Erik Cernak presented an opportunity for Alexander Volkov and Luke Schenn to be called up from the Syracuse Crunch and get into the line up. Those injuries, as well as a scratch of Braydon Coburn last night, also allowed Jan Rutta to get into his first action of the season for the past two games.
Schenn brings a similar style of game as Witkowski to the blue line. He’s right handed and has plenty of size at 6’2” and 221 pounds. Oh, and it’s his birthday today, so wish him a happy 30th birthday! Something Schenn brings to the ice that Witkowski doesn’t is a ton of experience and a more steady presence defensively. Schenn has played in 736 career games over 12 seasons.
These events also gave us closer to what we expected the forward line up to look like before Maroon was signed and Witkowski made the roster. Volkov was one of the last cuts from training camp and if not for an injury during pre-season, might have started the season in Tampa instead of Witkowski. Now he’s getting an opportunity to play. It will take a little bit of time to adjust to the NHL, but I have confidence that he can stick in the NHL going forward.
The Syracuse Crunch also made some moves today. With the trade of Louis Domingue to the New Jersey Devils, the Lightning re-assigned Spencer Martin to Syracuse from the Orlando Solar Bears. Mike Condon has yet to play for Syracuse this season and continues to rehab from injury.
On the other side, forwards Mikhail Shalagin and Peter Abbandonato have been loaned to the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL. Shalagin was drafted in the 7th round of this summer’s draft by the Lightning and was signed to a one-year AHL contract. He has yet to play for the Syracuse Crunch, but should get a big opportunity to play top minutes for the Solar Bears. This is Shalagin’s first year playing outside of Russia. He has had some other Russian speakers in Syracuse with Boris Katchouk, Dennis Yan, and Oleg Sosunov. He won’t be without in Orlando, though, as Lightning draftee Alexey Lipanov is also with the Solar Bears. Additionally, Ivan Kosorenkov and Artem Ivanyuzhenkov have been assigned to Orlando by the San Jose organization.
Abbandonato was an undrafted free agent that was signed to a two-year AHL deal after a 111 point overage season in the QMJHL. He has played in five games for the Crunch and has recorded two goals. Like Shalagin, he’s a raw prospect and will benefit from getting big minutes in Orlando.