Syracuse Crunch goaltender Eddie Pasquale has signed a contract to play for Barys Nur-Sultan in the KHL. Pasquale was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on January 31st, 2018 for “future considerations” because the Lightning were in need of a goaltender for the Crunch. At the time, NHL back-up Peter Budaj was injured and Louis Domingue had been called up to take his place. Domingue remained with the Lightning for the remainder of the season with the exception of a couple of trips back to Syracuse to play in a game while the Lightning were off.
Pasquale had played in only 16 games for the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL at the time he was acquired, with a .910 SV%. After joining the Crunch, he went on a tear along side Connor Ingram, posting a 1.72 GAA and .938 SV% in 15 games, helping backstop the Crunch into the playoffs. In the playoffs, though, he only managed an .840 SV% over three games.
Pasquale’s experience with the Crunch in that partial season was enough for him and the Lightning to come to terms on a one-year contract extension prior to Pasquale becoming an unrestricted free agent. Over 45 games last year, Pasquale posted a .916 SV% and again helped the Crunch to the playoffs. In four playoff games, he posted an .898 SV%.
Pasquale also famously made his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings. He had dressed as a back-up previously in the NHL, but had not played a single minute. On 12/4/2018, he took to the ice in Detroit in front of 18.477 fans at Little Ceasars Arena. Pasquale gave up the first two goals in the first period. The Lightning came back to tie it in the second with two goals from Mathieu Joseph. The Red Wings picked up two more goals in the second period with a Steven Stamkos goal sandwiched in the middle. The Red Wings stretched their lead to 5-3 in the third period. J.T. Miller got the Lightning to within one goal midway through the period. The equalizer came on a shorthanded goal by Cedric Paquette.
Pasquale held on through the rest of the third period and the overtime period to get to the shootout. He stopped the first two Detroit shooters while Victor Hedman scored and Brayden Point was denied. Pasquale had a chance to close it out, but Gustav Nyquist put his attempt past Pasquale to tie up the shootout. Nikita Kucherov sauntered onto the ice and beat Jimmy Howard to secure Pasquale’s first NHL victory.
Pasquale was given two more starts at the end of the season for the Lightning against the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. He lost to the Canadiens, giving up four goals. He pulled out the win against the Bruins, only allowed three goals.
Our whole staff would like to wish Eddie the best of luck as he continues his career overseas. Getting to see him make his NHL debut and get that win in the first game was an amazing experience. Good luck Eddie! We will miss you!
State of the Goaltenders
The Lightning currently sit with just three goaltenders under contract; Andrei Vasilevskiy, Louis Domingue, and Connor Ingram. Vasilevskiy and Domingue are locked in as the Lightning’s two goaltenders, barring an injury. Ingram though is a wild card.
Ingram was demoted to the ECHL late in the season. While the reasons for his demotion have never been revealed, there have been many rumors swirling around him mostly involving issues with attitude, work ethic, and discipline. He was given an opportunity to re-join the Crunch after an injury to Martin Ouellette, his replacement in Syracuse. However, after a conversation with Julien BriseBois, he was sent back to the ECHL and Atte Tolvanen was signed to back up Pasquale instead. This has left Ingram’s status up in the air and there’s every possibility that he could be traded or released this summer with just one year left on his entry level contract.
[Update, 6/14/19, 3:30pm] Connor Ingram has been traded to the Nashville Predators for a 2021 Seventh Round pick.
Tolvanen has already signed back in his native Finland and won’t be returning to the Crunch even though he played well in his brief stint with the Crunch. Tolvanen had finished his NCAA career at Northern Michigan University and just joined the Crunch to finish out the season after he was finished with school.
[Update, 6/14/19, 1:33pm:] Hat tip to Amir V. (@elektrify) on Twitter for sharing this with us. Sylabrush, a well known airbrush artist that paints goaltender masks for many big names including Vasilevskiy, posted a picture a few days ago on Instagram of a mask for Tolvanen. The post has the Syracuse Crunch and Tampa Bay Lightning hashtags and is clearly a Lightning themed mask. Two hours ago, they posted a second update on Instagram. This makes it look like the team is signing him instead of him returning home to Finland.
View this post on Instagram
Back at it finally painting in our friend garage to do what we love the most!!! . •••• Finalement de retour au airbrush dans le garage d’un ami pour faire ce qu’on aime le plus au monde!!! ••••. May the thunder strike! ⚡️Tolvanen’s mask in the shop. #SylabrushAirbrush #SyracuseCrunch #TampaBayLightning
Ouellette is also questionable on whether or not he will return. He showed well in a short stint in Syracuse before his injury, but he had been an ECHL level goaltender for most of his career with only 27 career AHL games plus four playoff games. Even if he returns to the organization, it may be in the fifth goaltender role in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears.
Prospect wise, the Lightning have Magnus Chrona, Ty Taylor, and Kristian Oldham. Taylor and Oldham are both NCAA goaltenders that have not gotten a chance to start at the NCAA level yet. Taylor was selected in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in the seventh round and spent last season with the University of New Hampshire. He played in eight games with an .855 SV%. He is not ready for the pro grame.
Oldham was a sixth round pick in 2015. After two years in the USHL, he was stuck behind an incumbent starter at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and only played in 16 games his first two seasons. Last year, he transferred to Clarkson University. Clarkson’s starter, Jake Kielly, left school early to sign with the Vancouver Canucks. Clarkson’s two other goaltenders from last season have played a combined 5 NCAA games with one having never appeared. Oldham’s also joined by another transfer in Francis Marotte who was a three year starter at Robert Morris University. Oldham may have a chance to win the starting goaltender role this year, but he will have some competition. He is not ready for the pro game.
Magnus Chrona was a bit of a surprise pick by the Lightning at last year’s draft in the fifth round. There was a delay before the pick which at the time lead to speculation the Lightning had traded the draft pick. It turned out that it was really a question of if the NHL properly had Chrona on the draft eligible players list. Chrona moved up to the SuperElit U20 league in Sweden and posted an .889 SV% in 26 games for a mediocre Skelleftea AIK team. There have been rumors that he is coming to North America to play NCAA hockey this year, but nothing has been confirmed on that front. Like the other two prospects, he’s not ready to play in the AHL yet.
What We Need
At a minimum, the Lightning will need to sign two, maybe three goaltenders this summer. If they move on from Connor Ingram without getting an AHL ready goaltender back in the deal, then it will be three goaltenders needed. None of the prospects are ready for pro hockey, so none of them are candidates for these positions.
The Lightning can certainly look to the free agent market to fill at least one of the positions for the Syracuse Crunch.
- Max Legace had a solid year for the Chicago Wolves last season and has spent the past two seasons in the Vegas Golden Knights system including playing 17 games for Vegas.
- Andrew Hammond put up a .910 SV% last season for the Iowa Wild in 33 games and posted a .912 SV% over 11 playoff games. He also has NHL experience with 56 games of NHL experience that would make him a good choice for a third goaltender.
- Former Lightning prospect Dustin Tokarski is also a free agent and just finished off a run to the AHL championship with the Charlotte Checkers. He has played 34 NHL games in his career and played 33 games for the Syracuse Crunch in 2012-13.
- Scott Wedgewood went 28-14-2 with a .908 SV% for the Rochester Americans this season. He has 24 career NHL games in his career.
These four are just a handful of the free agents out on the market. The one other area the Lightning could potentially look to is late in the draft for an overage goaltender that could play in the AHL immediately. That seems pretty unlikely however and any such player would at best be a back-up and more likely suited to being an ECHL goaltender.
This isn’t new territory for the Lightning or really any organization. Almost every summer, the team ends up needing to sign an AHL goaltender and an ECHL goaltender. Sometimes it means re-signing a player, but most of the time it means signing a free agent. The hard part of the equation for Julien BriseBois and his staff is resolving the Connor Ingram situation one way or the other.