The flip side of the Connolly conundrum
Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Brett Connolly will stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning past the nine-game mark this season. To quickly explain the entire nine-game rule, let me cite the NHL Collective Bargaining agreement, Article 9 states:
2005 NHL-NHLPA CBA
ENTRY LEVEL COMPENSATION
9.1 Applicability and Duration. Effective with SPCs entered into after the
execution of this Agreement:
(d) (i) In the event that an 18-year-old or 19-year-old Player signs an SPC
with a Club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the first season under that
SPC, the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one (1) year
In plain English, what is happening with Connolly remaining with the team, is that his contract has kicked in. He is now amassing service time in the league. If Connolly had been sent back to Prince George of the Western Hockey League, that service time would be delayed until next season.
Whatever. Congratulations, Brett! You're not just now in the big leagues, you're lined up with some of the biggest names in the sport.
So, with that out of the way, there's an alternate problem that the Bolts face by holding on to Brett Connolly.
The Lightning carry a 23-man roster; they have 24 players if you include defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who is currently on injured reserve after having both knees scoped earlier this month. He is expected to return sometime in November (if not December). At that point in time, things are going to be odd, to say the least.
You see, the Bolts are already struggling to rotate in all 14 forwards they are carrying. Blair Jones and Tom Pyatt have played the past three games in place of Ryan Shannon and Mattias Ritola. Ritola had played well despite the team losing games he happened to play in, and Ryan Shannon has more upside (though he is still mastering the system) than either Jones or Pyatt.
Even on defense, the glut of forwards can be felt. Matt Gilroy and Bruno Gervais had split playing time on defense during the early going. Gilroy had struggled in the 1-3-1 scheme. He's come around as of late. Gervais has flashed his potential in limited playing time. What is lacking is opportunity to employ Guy Boucher's quirky 11-forward, 7-defenseman game-day roster, which was a common occurence last season. Why? Carrying 14 healthy forwards and 7 healthy defensemen, sitting three forwards who are contributing just doesn't seem like it would be the most productive of decisions.
General manager Steve Yzerman could make a trade to clear up the backlog on offense and defense. But he's been cited as saying nothing is brewing every time he's been asked by reporters. The counter point tot his, of course, is why would Yzerman (or any GM) tip his hand if something was forthcoming?
The mind boggles in trying to figure out just who will end up the odd man out in Tampa Bay. A transaction of some sort - a waiver move, a trade, or even the demotion of Connolly if he regresses (it happened with James Wright in 2009-10, after all) is forthcoming at some point in th future.