Takeaways from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Training Camp Cuts

Sep 29, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Luke Glendening (11) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period during preseason at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Luke Glendening (11) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period during preseason at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Following the Tampa Bay Lightning’s preseason win over the Nashville Predators Saturday night, the team announced the reduction of their training camp roster down from 56 to 26 players.

With four preseason games already played, and the Syracuse Crunch’s training camp for the upcoming AHL season starting on Tuesday, October 3, this was the time to trim the camp roster down and begin to focus more on the expected roster regulars with three preseason games remaining.

The Lightning will eventually need to cut down to at least 23 players for the open night roster, but for now the 26 players still with the team are as follows.

Forwards: Barre-Boulet, Cirelli, Eyssimont, Fortier, Glendenning, Hagel, Jeannot, Kucherov, Merela, Motte, Paul, Point, Sheary Stamkos, Watson

Defense: Bogosian, Cernak, de Haan, Fleury, Hedman, Perbix, Raddysh, Sergachev

Goalies: Johansson, Tomkins, Vasilevskiy

There are a few takeaways from who remains, and who does not, so let’s jump into them.

Goalie situation still up in the air

With Vasilevskiy slated to miss the first two months of the season, the only healthy goalies with the team right now are Jonas Johansson and Matt Tomkins, with Hugo Alnefelt being included among the 30 players cut.

While it is possible that the team begins the season with Johansson and Tomkins as their two goalie options, I expect the team will remain patient and see what options come their way on waivers as other teams begin to trim their own rosters.

As for Alnefelt, I do not believe the door is closed for him to see NHL action while Vasilevskiy is out. Sending him to Syracuse makes the most sense for his development. Rather than having him play sparsely with the Lightning, he will now have the opportunity to be the Crunch’s undisputed No .1 goaltender, something that he has yet to have in his prior two seasons with the team.

No surprises on defense

The Lightning were not in a position to hold onto prospect defensemen late into camp this year as they have 7 players returning from last season’s ending roster, as well as Haydn Fleury, who although is likely to eventually end up in Syracuse, has 244 games of NHL experience. Sending him to join the Crunch’s training camp would be of little benefit to him.

However, his inclusion over Phil Myers could suggest that the team still views Fleury as the next man up in the case of injuries to any of the core seven. Or it could just be the team wanting to keep the camp roster balanced with four right-handed and left-handed defensemen — since Myers would have made it five right-handed. But it is probably a little bit of both.

Also, recall the team rostered 12 forwards and 8 defensemen — including Fleury — to begin the season last year. So, more early season action could be in the cards for him.

Four forwards locked into battle

15 of the 26 players remaining in camp are forwards, and only 11 of them are locks to make the roster — meaning that there is also a spot in the starting 12 up for grabs.

The four now battling for the starting spot, and potentially 1-2 additional spots, are Alex Barre-Boulet, Gabe Fortier, Waltteri Merela, and Austin Watson.

Watson has the most NHL experience with 482 games but is currently only signed to a PTO. While keeping him around is good for competition, he could still earn a contract and a roster spot after opening night as the team is expected to have ample temporary cap space once Vasilevskiy is placed on LTIR.

Barre-Boulet has been the team’s most perplexing prospect the past few seasons. He has consistently been a top scorer in the AHL the past five seasons, and has broken multiple scoring records for the Crunch, but has yet to pull it all together in the NHL. Will this year be any different?

Read. The Tampa Bay Lightning can do more for Barre-Boulet. light

Fortier, the team’s 2018 second-round draft pick, has 11 games of experience with the team the past two seasons, but has not shown the offensive ability, in the AHL or NHL, that would likely be needed for him to land a starting role. However, he plays a smart defensively sound game and is always a 100 percent effort type player on the ice, so it is easy to imagine why coaches would want him around late in camp while game-like preparations ramp-up.

Merela, 25, signed as a free agent prospect this offseason has been the prospect standout of the preseason thus far with 2 goals and an assist, all coming in Friday night’s game. Although considered a prospect on an entry-level contract, Merela has ample pro experience with 212 games played in the Finnish pro league Liiga.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a possible star in Waltteri Merelä. light. Read

With the Lightning still not having a clear answer to how they will replace the lost scoring production of Alex Killorn and Ross Colton, giving Merela an immediate shot after his impressive showings could be just what they need.