TAMPA - Veteran D Matt Carle sat out Saturday’s game as a healthy scratch as Tampa Bay appears to be looking to move the 31-year-old.
It’s been widely reported the past couple of weeks that the Lightning are actively trying to trade Carle, who is the highest paid defenseman on the team with three years left (including this year) at $5.5 million per season. Carle, who has zero points with a minus-3 rating in 11 games this season, has a modified no-trade clause.
If Tampa Bay could free up salary cap space - they are currently around $1.2 million under the salary cap according to contract tracking website GeneralFanager.com - it might be a move toward trying to get captain Steven Stamkos signed to an extension. Stamkos is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is believed to be seeking a contract in the neighborhood of the deals signed last summer by Chicago C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane, who each signed eight-year contracts worth $84 million that carry a cap hit of $10.5 million.
Carle’s contract is an obvious target to move in order to free up that space and making him a healthy scratch to give more playing time to younger defensemen may be a first step in to trying to make that happen.
Tampa Bay handled a similar situation with veteran D Eric Brewer at the start of last season, making him a healthy scratch early in the season before eventually trading him to Anaheim in late November.
Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy completed his second conditioning start Friday, finishing with 27 saves in helping Syracuse stop Hershey 4-1.
In his two starts in the American Hockey League, Vasilevskiy has won both games while stopping 54 of 56 shots while posting a 1.00 goals against average.
Though Vasilevskiy has not been called back up to Tampa yet, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said that will happen soon, but he did not indicate who would get the start in goal for Sunday’s 5 p.m. game at Carolina — Kristers Gudlevskis or Vasilevskiy.
“He’ll join us for sure on the road trip,’’ Cooper said. “Definitely not (Saturday), but we’ll see after that.’’
Vasilevskiy, who underwent surgery in September to alleviate a blood clot, is expected to get plenty of playing time to help take some of the weight off starter Ben Bishop while also allowing the 21-year-old to keep sharp.
“We can’t sit here and say that Bish is going to get 60 more games and Vasilevskiy 10,’’ Cooper said. “The whole point of this is to have a one-two tandem, and in a perfect world a No. 1 and 1-A tandem. And Vasy needs games, he’s an NHL-caliber goaltender, and we think he’s going to be a really, really good one, but he needs games to play.’’
RW Jonathan Marchessault enjoyed his first full season in the Lightning organization, getting into a pair of regular season games, scoring his first career NHL goal and seeing action in two playoff games on Tampa Bay’s march to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 24-year-old was the first forward call-up this season, making his season debut in Thursday’s game against Colorado, logging 7 minutes, 50 seconds while recording one shot on goal. Marchessault was back in the lineup on Saturday
Now that Tampa Bay knows what kind of a player they have in Marchessault, he can go and try to play his game, even while in a reduced role than what he plays in the AHL.
“You have to be ready no matter what, no matter what your ice time is,’’ Marchessault said. “What I’m doing well down (in Syracuse), I need to bring up here. I want to try and do what I do, play good defensively and be a complete player.’’
Nuts and Bolts
D Jason Garrison played his 400th career game. ... C Tyler Johnson, who missed practice on Friday, was in the lineup. ... LW Jonathan Drouin (lower body) and C Cedric Paquette (ankle) were both scratched. ... Tampa Bay has failed to lead after the first period in any game this season.