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Lightning Round: Bolts return Mitchell Stephens to Crunch after effective NHL debut

His return should be a nice boost for Syracuse.

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Sunday that they returned Mitchell Stephens to the Syracuse Crunch. Stephens played four games and a little over thirty minutes total during his first stint in the NHL.

While he didn’t record any points, Stephens was effective playing alongside his former Crunch teammates Carter Verhaeghe and Mathieu Joseph. He showed that he’s capable of playing NHL minutes should the team need forward depth later this season. His performance also indicated that he has a future at the top level of professional hockey. He may have to wait until next season to get consistent minutes but when that time comes, he’ll be ready.

Stephens’ return to Syracuse suggests that the team has received good news on a couple of high profile forward injuries. Tyler Johnson missed the last few games but this move is an indication that he could be ready to go for Tuesday’s game against the Senators.

This decision could also mean that the injury Nikita Kucherov suffered on Saturday is not severe enough to cause him to miss any games. He left during the second period of the Capitals game and did not return. With only 12 forwards currently on the roster, he must be close to returning.

Of course, a call up today would change all of this. For instance, if Cory Conacher was to add to his frequent flyer miles today, that might mean that one or both of Johnson and Kucherov could be questionnable for the Sens game.

Other hockey news

The Taylor Hall saga remains unresolved. This all bears some resemblance to the Erik Karlsson will they won’t they from a couple years ago. The Devils took it to another level by pulling Hall from the lineup this weekend in anticipation of a move. New Jersey doesn’t play again until Wednesday so they have a couple more days but if he’s not traded by then, yikes. They’ve created a mess for themselves. Elliotte Friedman gave an update last night on what he’s hearing.

The Buffalo Sabres finally made the right decision and sent Casey Mittelstadt to the AHL. The 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft has not been able to find consistent success in the NHL to this point. The demotion is an admission by the Sabres that they rushed Mittlestadt to the NHL. The Lightning fall on the conservative side of prospect development often giving players extra time in the minors. That can be frustrating but cases like this make it apparent how risky rushing players can be.

Today’s waiver wire will feature an actual prize. The Vancouver Canucks are making Sven Baertschi available. He will almost certainly be claimed by someone. The Lightning have so much forward depth that they won’t be in the mix but expect multiple teams to put in a claim on the Swiss forward. He’s shown enough in his time in Vancouver that teams should see value. Why the Canucks don’t see that is unclear. They’re not exactly stacked with talent. But hey, anything that makes them worse is good for the Lightning. We want that unprotected 2021 first round pick acquired in the JT Miller trade to be as high as possible.