It appears the Tampa Bay Lightning have claimed forward Rudolfs Balcers off of waivers from the Florida Panthers on Saturday. The 25-year-old from Latvia has 2 goals and 2 assists on the season, including a goal against the Lightning back on October 21st.
Balcers brings 167 games of NHL experience to the team, mostly in a third or fourth line role. Originally drafted in the fifth round by the San Jose Sharks in 2015, Balcers was part of the deal that sent Erik Karlsson to the Sharks from Ottawa in 2018. A few years later he found himself back in California when San Jose picked him up off of waivers.
This past offseason, the Sharks bought out his contract and he was immediately signed by the Panthers to a one-year, $750,000 deal. The Lightning will be picking up the cap hit of that deal, which, at the moment, isn’t too big of a deal, but could be an issue once their injured players return. At that point they will have to figure out how to make things work.
For now, if Balcers stays with the Lightning, the left-handed shot winger will likely slot in on the third or fourth line. With a lack of production coming from the bottom-six could find a spot in place of Cole Koepke who has yet to produce a point and has seemed invisible from time to time. Some time in Syracuse may get Koepke back into the scoring mode that he displayed last year with the Crunch.
They do have an open spot on the 23-player roster and have been carrying just 12 forwards since Gabriel Fortier was sent down to Syracuse. Adding Balcers could allow Coach Cooper to rotate out a few players until Anthony Cirelli returns. It’s really a no-cost flyer that they can take to possibly help rectify some of their defensive problems.
During his time with San Jose, where Balcers developed into a full-time player, he showed that he could handle a two-way role and plays hard defensively. In 61 games last year he put up 11 goals and 12 assists while averaging 15 minutes of ice time. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him in a similar role.
The Panthers had to place him on waivers in order to get under the cap with Aaron Ekblad returning from injury. It does seem like they were hoping they were able to sneak him through, but the Lightning jumped on the chance to pick up the versatile winger.