Lightning place Cory Conacher on waivers; Callahan returning?

With Callahan eventually returning from injury, someone had to leave the roster.

The Tampa Bay Lightning placed forward Cory Conacher on waivers today. The other 30 teams in the NHL will have 24 hours to place a waiver claim on him. If one or more teams do, then he will be headed to another NHL team. Otherwise, the Lightning would then be free to assign him to the Syraucse Crunch of the AHL.

Update: Conacher cleared and will be reporting to Syracuse. In the words of Alex, “YES”.

The Lightning have been carrying 14 forwards on the NHL roster since opening night of the season. In addition, they’ve had Ryan Callahan on injured reserve with an expected return date of early November. Callahan has been skating regularly, but we haven’t had any signs that he is ready to return, or any indications he could return from the injury early.

Cory Conacher played in the Lightning’s first game of the season and has been a healthy scratch for the past three games after Tyler Johnson returned from injury. Conacher played 8:35 with one shot on goal and two penalty minutes. He played in 36 games last year with 12 points after earning a two-year contract with the team for his 2016-17 performance, mostly with the Syracuse Crunch. The first year was a one-way contract, but this year it is a two-way contract so the Lightning would save some money by sending him to the AHL.

This doesn’t necessarily signal that Callahan is ready to return to the line up. They would still have 13 healthy forwards on the roster without Callahan as training camp waiver claim Danick Martel remains on the roster. If Conacher clears waivers, he can also remain on the roster for up to 30 days or 10 games played, whichever comes first, without needing waivers again. They can continue to monitor how things go with Callahan’s recovery and send Conacher down in a couple weeks when Callahan is ready to play.

But one thing it does signal is that the Lightning have made a decision on Mathieu Joseph remaining in Tampa Bay. In four games, he is averaging 13:16 TOI and has eight shots on goal and 14 total shot attempts. He also recorded his first career assist and point on a shorthanded goal by Tyler Johnson. Joseph is the sixth leading forward among the Lightning for short handed time on ice with 1:52 per game. He has gotten more time there than past stalwarts Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat.

My prior thoughts were that if the Lightning wanted to take the safest path to asset management, they could send Joseph back to Syracuse without requiring waivers. Because of that, Joseph would need to prove himself, produce, and have an impact on the ice. While he hasn’t started to produce yet the way that I expected he needed to, apparently the coaching staff and front office thinks his overall impact has been enough to stick around.

For the Syracuse Crunch, if Conacher makes it through waivers and is assigned there, they pick up another veteran leader who has worn an A as an Alternate Captain for them in the past. He is also a highly impactful player in the AHL with 228 points in 240 career games. In 56 games with the Crunch in 2016-17, he scored 17 goals and 60 points and added another 12 goals and 28 points in 22 playoff games. His offense will be a shot in the arm for a team that has struggled a little bit in the early going.