Opening night for the Tampa Bay Lightning wasn’t a great one for Tyler Motte. The offseason free agent signing took a shot off of his hand during the game, had to leave early, and has been on injured reserve since.
His absence created the opportunity for Alex Barre-Boulet to shine, but now that Motte is on the verge of returning, what are the Lightning going to do with their roster?
Tampa Bay Lightning: The squad isn’t big enough for the 24 of us
Tampa announced today that it was sending defenseman Hayden Fleury to Syracuse on a conditioning assignment. That designation is significant because it means, for the time being, Fleury doesn’t have to clear waivers. Fleury can be on this conditioning assignment for 14 days before Tampa will have to choose what to do next.
But, Fleury still counts against Tampa’s 23-man roster, even during this stint. And with Tampa using up all 23 of their roster slots, according to Cap Friendly, it means someone else is still going to have to get the boot once Motte is ready to go.
With just seven defensemen now on the roster, we assume they are all safe for now. That makes Austin Watson, Alex Barre-Boulet, and Waltteri Merelä the three candidates to get moved. Watson made the team after signing on a professional tryout deal and has appeared in two games, Barre-Boulet was originally sent to Syracuse after training camp but was called up after the Motte injury, and Merela has yet to register an NHL point.
Of the three, Merela is the only one that would not have to clear waivers and would be our pick for who gets sent down to keep the roster at 23 players.
But whomever gets sent down, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have another upcoming decision once Andrei Vasilevskiy returns. Even if the Lightning keep Barre-Boulet and send Merela down, the Lightning will be $74,998 over the cap once the $9.5 million cap hit returns. This means more than likely Fleury or Zach Bogosian will be moved. Both would have to clear waivers to get there.
That’s a converstaion for down the road, but it feels like Fleury was placed on his conditioning assignment as a way for Tampa to decide which of the two players they want to keep when they will officially have to choose.