The Tampa Bay Lightning announced Friday that Alex Barre-Boulet had been reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch.
Barre-Boulet’s season to this point had been all over the place (literally), as he was waived by the Lightning, in favor of Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh, before the start of the season and subsequently claimed by the Seattle Kraken off waivers. His stint with the league’s brand-new franchise would prove to be short as he only played two games before being placed on waivers again.
Thankfully for the Lightning, who never intended to lose Barre-Boulet in the first place, they were able to reclaim him off waivers and immediately slot him into the starting lineup after injuries to Nikita Kucherov and Boris Katchouk necessitated an additional forward on the roster.
Seven games, one goal, two assists, and less than stellar possession numbers later, Barre-Boulet was replaced in the starting lineup by a now healthy Boris Katchouk. With Katchouk looking to have a firm handle of the starting roster spot, the Lightning made the smart move and reassigned ABB to the Crunch.
The NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that when a team reclaims a player lost on waivers earlier in the same season, said player does not have to pass through waivers again for AHL assignment if it is done within 30 days and the player has not participated in more than 9 cumulative games.
Barre-Boulet only played seven games, but the thirty-day limit was upon Lightning management as he had been claimed on October 22. The time to make the move, if ever, was now.
The question now stands, what now for Alex Barre-Boulet? He signed a three-year league minimum salary contract over the offseason, has had two inconclusive stints with the Lightning, and one cross-country excursion with the Kraken where he was unable to secure a spot on a team that had all twelve forward spots up for grabs at the time.
Barre-Boulet’s immediate future lies with the Syracuse Crunch, where he should immediately take up a major role in the forward rotation and on the power play. However, just scoring big points in the minors will not be enough for ABB if he is to find his way back in the NHL on a full-time basis. His scoring numbers have consistently been around the point-per-game mark in his three prior AHL seasons, and his 7 points in 24 NHL games is a decent accomplishment, but he will have to change how he plays the game.
A major criticism of Barre-Boulet’s game is that his skating and compete level is not where it needs to be to compensate for his relatively small stature, and this in turn leads to inconsistent even-strength play.
Thinking of recent Lightning forwards with small statures, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson, both were extremely talented when they entered the league, but their skating and compete levels were effective enough to compensate for being undersized.
Skating is always a work-in-process for anyone who calls themselves a professional hockey player, but working on competing harder for the puck, and thus controlling play more at even-strength, will also be an important factor in whether Barre-Boulet will become a full-time NHL player.
Now, could Barre-Boulet request a trade away from the Lightning organization in a similar way that Alexander Volkov did last season? Possibly, but general manager Julien BriseBois had to consider the possibility of losing Volkov on waivers for nothing. So, sending Volkov to the Anaheim Ducks for a modest return was the best course of action. However, with ABB not requiring waivers to be sent to Syracuse, BriseBois would have no incentive to grant a trade if such a request came about.
Barre-Boulet will still be a primary call-up option if injuries plague the Lightning at some point this season, but his next major opportunity probably stands to be the beginning of the 2022-23 season where it is likely the Bolts will have to part ways with another forward due to the ongoing salary cap crunch and thus pave the way for a prospect, such as ABB, to step into a starting role.