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Crunch Time: laying out the Syracuse Crunch roster and searching for goalies

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Who’s coming back and who needs a contract?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche
Sep 4, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Michael Hutchinson (35) makes a save during warmup against the Dallas Stars in game seven of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place.
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Crunch fans, it’s been a while. I hope your offseason was safe and your “Tampa-Cuse” celebration was vibrant. Now that the Tampa Bay Lightning are champions, it’s inevitably time to talk about next season, whenever that is going to be. Allow me to kick off the first Syracuse Crunch article of the season with a rundown of where the roster stands ahead of Free Agency.

Putting together a roster of NHL and AHL contracts is usually pretty hard, but with the start of the season TBD and many players choosing Europe as a place to play (temporarily or permanently), it’ll be even more difficult. And that’s not even including contracts and team budgets!

We’re going to go step by step so that this massive question mark of an offseason can become a few more manageable quandaries. Thanks to Cap Friendly and a handy player tracker on the Crunch website for all these facts.

NHL Contracts

The Crunch have nine forwards and five defensemen signed for next season. There are five forwards and five defensemen who are either RFAs or UFAs that will need to be re-signed (or moved on from). I have not included the likes of Mitchell Stephens and Luke Schenn, who are currently on the Lightning roster but played time in Syracuse last season. I’m going by Cap Friendly’s accounting here.

The Lightning organization has no goaltenders under contract beyond the two in the NHL. Mike Condon, Spencer Martin, and Scott Wedgewood are all free agents.

Under Contract (Forwards)

  • Alex Barré-Boulet (23, C, RFA in 1 year)
  • Jimmy Huntington (21, C, RFA in 2 years)
  • Boris Katchouk (22, LW, RFA in 1 year)
  • Alexey Lipanov (21, C, RFA in 2 years)
  • Ryan Lohin (24, LW, RFA in 1 year)
  • Taylor Raddysh (22, RW, RFA in 1 year)
  • *Otto Somppi (22, C, RFA in 1 year)
  • Daniel Walcott (26, LW, UFA in 1 year)
  • Gemel Smith (26, C, RFA in 1 year)

* Otto Somppi has been loaned to the Lahden Pelicans of the Finnish Elite Liiga for 2020-21. He has an out-clause that will allow him to return to the AHL when the season begins.

Under Contract (Defensemen)

  • *Sean Day (22, LD, RFA in 1 year)
  • Cal Foote (21, RD, RFA in 1 year)
  • Alex Green (22, RD, RFA in 2 years)
  • Dmitri Semykin (20, RD, RFA in 3 years)
  • Luke Witkowski (30, RD/RW, UFA in 1 year)

* Sean Day was signed by the Lightning this summer to a one-year, two-way deal. Interestingly enough, everyone under contract makes the standard ELC salary of $70k in the minors except Day ($95k), and Witkowski ($250k).

Free Agents (Forwards)

  • Ross Colton (24, C, RFA)
  • Mathieu Joseph (23, LW, RFA)
  • Alexander Volkov (23, LW, RFA)
  • *Dennis Yan (23, LW, UFA)

* Dennis Yan was an RFA this offseason, but he was not given a qualifying offer by the Lightning and as a result is a UFA. He can sign with any team, including back with the Lightning. He can also sign an AHL deal with the Crunch.

Free Agents (Defensemen)

  • Cameron Gaunce (30, LD, UFA)
  • *Dominik Masin (24, LD, RFA)
  • Patrick Sieloff (26, LD, UFA)
  • **Devante Stephens (23, LD, UFA)
  • Ben Thomas (24, RD, RFA)

* Dominik Masin has joined Amur Khabarovsk of the Russian KHL for the start of the 2020-21 season. If he signs a contract extension with the Lightning, it will indicate whether he’s going to stay in Russia permanently or not. Unlike Somppi, Masin doesn’t have a contract (if he doesn’t sign, he’ll be added to the reserve list and the Lightning will retain his NHL rights until he’s 27).

** Similar to Yan, Devante Stephens was not given a qualifying offer and is now a Free Agent.

*** Oleg Sosunov was placed on waivers and his contract was terminated by the Lightning during the pause in the season. He is officially off the books and has yet to sign anywhere else for next season.

Waivers

Of the players under contract, Walcott, Smith and Witkowski will need to clear waivers to join the Crunch roster — it shouldn’t be an issue for them.

Of the Free Agents, only Ross Colton is waivers exempt, everyone else will need to pass through them — Joseph and Volkov are the most at-risk here and will probably stay in the NHL as a result.

AHL/ECHL Contracts

Forwards

  • Peter Abbandonato
  • *Nikita Pavlychev
  • **Mikhail Shalagin

* Nikita Pavlychev was signed by the Crunch during the pause to a one-year AHL deal. He spent last season with Penn State in the NCAA. He was a seventh-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but his rights expired.

** Mikhail Shalagin is a Lightning prospect who has a one-year contract with the Crunch. He spent last season with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL and has signed with Khimik Voskresensk of the VHL (Russian AHL) to start the season.

Defensemen

  • Nolan Valleau

Goalies

  • Clint Windsor

Where things stand

The Crunch currently have 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 1 goalie signed to a contract that makes them eligible to play in the AHL or ECHL, those numbers go up to 14, 9, and 1 if all the RFAs are re-upped for next season. Obviously those numbers may also go up depending on how many signed Lightning players start the season in Syracuse or down depending on how many players are going to Orlando.

So all-in-all, the Crunch are probably going to be looking for a couple skaters, probably some AHL veterans they can get on AHL deals, and goalies. Lots of goalies.

The Goaltending

The Lightning do not have a third goalie under contract for next season. The Crunch do not have that goalie as their starter or a backup, or even a backup to the backup. They have Clint Windsor, but he’s the Solar Bears starting goalie. Maybe they promote him to the AHL after a .927 sv% season, but that still leaves two (or more) spots that need to be filled.

I’ve compiled a list of goaltenders the Lightning will probably be looking into for next season. Ideally for the Lightning, they would have a prospect signed to an ELC to fill one of the two spots with a more experienced guy as the leader. Looking through the reserve list on the Lightning’s Cap Friendly page, I don’t see anyone who will fit that bill unless one of the prospects currently playing in Europe finishes their season before the AHL gets back up and wants to make the move over. That’s something only the Lightning will know internally. So for now, let’s look at free agents.

Experienced Number 3s

  • Michael Hutchinson
  • Scott Wedgewood
  • Keith Kinkaid
  • Andrew Hammond

All of these guys have NHL experience and have the lovely combination of not being a waiver risk and being a capable starting goalie in the AHL. As someone who covers the Marlies on weekends, Hutchinson was a really great starter and influence on both his teammates and young goalies he partnered with.

Solid AHL goalies

  • Anton Forsberg
  • Kasimir Kaskisuo
  • Christopher Gibson
  • Jon Gillies

Gibson had the best save percentage of all four goalies on this list, he was the starter in Bridgeport. Kaskisuo started for the Marlies. Forsberg was starter for Charlotte. And Gillies was in Stockton. They’ve all done it before, and if the Crunch want to go with a goalie battle (though those don’t always end well) any of these guys would fit in as a #3b.

Young-ish Options

  • Philippe Desrosiers, 25
  • Landon Bow, 24

Desrosiers has a really great AHL resume, so I was shocked when he did not get qualified by the Florida Panthers. Perhaps they’re working on an AHL deal with him, but without any further knowledge, he’s on the table for the Crunch. Bow was released by the Stars, who have Jake Oettinger as their third goalie/goalie of the future. He had good numbers so perhaps he’s worth taking a risk on and having as a fourth guy behind a number one.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to people and where they want to live, play, and how much they want to get paid. The pandemic has thrown all three of those questions further into obscurity, so who knows where things land.