5 Biggest Takeaways from Tampa Bay Lightning's 1st Wave of Roster Cuts
The Tampa Bay Lightning significantly reduced their roster on Sept. 27 when they announced that 28 players were being reassigned. The wave of cuts brings the training camp roster from 64 to 36 and included a few surprises.
Tampa Bay sent 25 of those 28 players to the Syracuse Crunch's American Hockey League camp. Two went back to Juniors, and one was released from a tryout. Despite the drastic cuts, the Lightning's opening-day roster is far from complete.
Big-name prospects like Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov are still with the big club, but they can all be reassigned without penalty.
Tampa Bay is 2-1 this preseason with three games left as we prepare for the regular season. Here are the biggest surprises from the Lightning's first wave of roster cuts.
Locked-Down Blue Paint
The Lightning's top goaltending prospects, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis, were expectedly sharp this preseason. Vasilevskiy took on Nashville in the first game, and Gudlevskis got his turn against the Predators in the second game of the preseason.
Vasilevskiy gave up two goals on 30 shots en route to a 4-2 win. Gudlevskis didn't get any offensive support and dropped a 1-0 contest despite having a .969 save percentage.
It was a bit surprising that these two goaltenders only made one appearance before being sent to the AHL. While their move to the AHL was fully expected, this was an opportunity to make a distinct case for the franchise's No. 3 spot.
If Ben Bishop or Evgeni Nabokov go down with an injury, it would have been nice to see these goalies get more preseason time. With three preseason games left, these two could have easily split another contest, but they will have plenty of minutes to fight for with Syracuse.
First Round, First Cut
In the Lightning's third game of the preseason, offense stole the show. The Bolts beat the Dallas Stars 6-3 despite going 0-of-5 on the power play.
It was the first game of the preseason for veterans Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Ben Bishop, to name a few. It was also the first appearance of the Lightning's top draft pick in 2014, Anthony DeAngelo.
DeAngelo is just 18 years old but has a ton of upside. The Lightning's blue line is a bit crowded this season, but DeAngelo held his own against a very good Dallas team.
The rookie logged over 20 minutes of ice time, including eight minutes on special teams. He didn't do anything noteworthy in his appearance, but that could be a good thing.
Surprisingly, his time with the big club is done for the preseason. DeAngelo was sent back to Juniors in what appears to be another Drouin-like development situation.
Tampa, We Still Have a Problem
There are two ways to help improve this problem: minimize penalties and/or improve the penalty kill. The Lightning haven't done much of the former this preseason.
Against Dallas, the Lightning gave up six power-play opportunities. Fortunately, the PK held the Stars to an 0-of-6 clip.
Take preseason penalty statistics lightly, as a good portion of teams haven't even started working on special teams yet. The biggest takeaway from the penalty numbers against Dallas is the fact that most of the players dressed were NHL veterans.
However, the Lightning need to do a better job of minimizing penalty time regardless. Nineteen penalty minutes is a big chunk of time.
Believing in Stevie Y
Much to the displeasure of some of the Lightning's prospects, the majority of the veterans brought in this offseason have met or exceeded expectations. Players like Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison have all proven why they were brought to Tampa Bay.
None of the veterans were considered bubble players, but the young guys fighting for minutes had to be disappointed in Boyle's strong start to the preseason. With forward spots at a premium, the prospects had to be hoping to at least put more pressure on the gigantic (6'7") center.
Unfortunately, Boyle has dominated the preseason, including a two-point contest against Dallas in just 13 minutes on ice. Some of the victims of his strong play are Henri Ikonen, Cody Kunyk and Jeff Costello.
It's rare when a general manager has as active an offseason as Steve Yzerman had, but he seems to have hit the mark with most of his moves early this preseason.
Making the Cut
The Lightning will have to trim about a dozen more players off their roster before we get to the regular season. After this first wave of cuts, there are still some key players who are fighting for a spot in the lineup.
I have been a strong proponent of Nikita Kucherov's. He has a good knack for making plays and has had a strong preseason. Kucherov was plus-two and scored a goal against Dallas. He also spent more than five minutes on the power play, which is a strong testament to his offensive prowess.
Other players still in the hunt are Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin (though he is injured) and Cedric Paquette. Brett Connolly continues to hang around the big club. He is on what could be his last ride for the Bolts if he doesn't earn an everyday spot this year.
Tampa Bay travels to Dallas on Sept. 30 before finishing up the preseason with a home-and-home set against Florida on Oct. 2 and 4. The regular season starts at home against the Panthers on Oct. 9, less than two weeks away.