Listening to the Syracuse Speaks podcast this week (seriously, go check it out), I realized that I needed to take a deeper look into the Syracuse Crunch roster for next year. Who do we have, who might we be losing, and who can we look forward to joining the roster. Let’s take a dive in and at least give ourselves a rough idea of where the roster stands and what the Tampa Bay Lightning front office might need to do to fill out the roster.
Forwards: Alexander Volkov, Mitchell Stephens, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Ross Colton, Otto Somppi, Alex Barre-Boulet, Dennis Yan, Cory Conacher, Carter Verhaeghe*
Defense: Cal Foote, Matthew Spencer, Oleg Sosunov, Ben Thomas*, Dominik Masin*
Goaltenders: Connor Ingram
*Restricted Free Agents
Ten forwards, five defenseman, and one goaltender that played with the Syracuse Crunch are under contract or are restricted free agents. Some of these players, especially at forward, could potentially move up to the NHL as there could be up to three positions available, but there could also be no positions depending on what the Lightning does this summer.
There’s also the issue of the waiver wire. Verhaeghe, Conacher, Thomas, and Masin will all require waivers to return to the Crunch for another season. Verhaeghe made a name for himself with his incredible offensive performance. That makes him a candidate for taking a roster spot, but also the potential that he could be lost on waivers, though I don’t think that’s as big of a risk as I’ve seen others make it out to be on Twitter.
On defense, Thomas and Masin need to be re-signed, but I expect that will happen. There’s also the potential that Masin or Foote could end up on the Lightning’s roster as well.
Connor Ingram is certainly a giant wild card. Who knows how that will work itself out over the summer. He may be traded and bring back another minor league goalie. He may have been reformed over the summer and be back playing with the Crunch next fall. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Who Could Be/Already Is Gone
Forwards: Andy Andreoff, Michael Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, Kevin Lynch, Brady Brassart Troy Bourke, Mitch Hults, Jonne Tammela, Olivier Archambault, Daniel Walcott
Defense: Cameron Gaunce, Nolan Valleau, Hubert Labrie
Goaltenders: Eddie Pasquale, Martin Ouellette, Atte Tolvanen
Tammela and Tolvanen have already signed back in Finland for next season and are gone. Bourke has also already signed on with the Schwenninger Wild Wings of the DEL. The rest are unrestricted free agents and are free to sign elsewhere if they so choose. Andreoff, Gaunce, and Dumont were major contributors for the Crunch and might want to re-sign, but they could also look for opportunities elsewhere that may allow a clearer path to playing in the NHL.
Valleau was a pleasant surprise on the blue line playing in 68 games with 20 points. I also have to admit that Labrie played a lot more than I expected him to, playing in 69 games with 10 points. Injuries and ineffective play unfortunately kept Bournival, Brassart, Lynch, and Walcott from being big contributors to the Crunch roster.
Who’s Coming In
Forwards: Jimmy Huntington, Alexey Lipanov
Defense: Radim Salda
The last couple of drafts, the Tampa Bay Lightning have had more of a focus on NCAA draft choices. This means there is a little bit less of a crop of prospects ready to come in to the AHL with the Crunch for this upcoming season. The crop that is ready isn’t the most outstanding group, either.
Huntington was signed as an undrafted free agent back in March out of the QMJHL. He’ll turn 21 this fall and was a bit of a late bloomer after being passed over in the NHL Entry draft. He scored 40 goals and 52 assists for 92 points in 66 games this past season. However, I always take these kind of overage performances with a grain of salt.
When you’re spending most of the season at 20 years old and playing mostly against 15-19 year olds, it’s a lot easier to out muscle the opposition. He has shown some playmaking skills prior to his breakout seasons though, so there may be some room for optimism. I wouldn’t put him up there in the same realm as Alex Barre-Boulet, though. He could as easily end up playing most of the season in the ECHL.
Lipanov is a Russian center who turns 20 in August. He was a 3rd round pick in 2017. He was highly regarded when he was drafted, but didn’t perform in the OHL as well as was thought. He played in ten games for the Crunch at the end of 2017-18 with three assists. He was sent to Orlando at the end of this past season and recorded a goal and four points in four games and another assist in four playoff games.
Salda was taken in the 7th round in 2018. He was passed over in his draft season, so he is already 20 years old and eligible to play in the AHL. He’s got decent size and offensive skills from the blue line, but his decision making is sometimes suspect. If he plays with the Crunch, it will be more as a third pairing or seventh defenseman. He could also go back to the QMJHL for another year of junior hockey as an overager.
Where Do We Stand
At a minimum, I believe the Lightning will be taking at least two players from the Crunch roster: one forward and one defenseman. There could be more, but it will all depend on what the Lightning do with the rest of the summer and trying to fill out and re-shape the roster for the 2019-20 season.
So right now with that assumption, the roster would sit at 11 forwards, five defense, and one goaltender. As I stated before, I don’t know what will happen with Ingram, we’ll have to see how that situation plays out. With other decisions the Lightning might make on current players like Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne, as well as Ryan Callahan and potentially J.T. Miller, the number of spots needed could go up, especially at forward. A few of the forwards I’ve listed above could also just as easily end up in the ECHL, necessitating a few more players for the Crunch roster.
If Andreoff, Dumont, Gaunce, and Pasquale are all willing to come back for another season, that would go a long way in filling out the roster with needed veterans and leaders that are proven performers. Any which way, just as they have to every summer, the Lightning front office will need to look to the free agent market for reinforcements that can fill out the roster.