Few surprises as Lightning pare down to final roster

TAMPA — The Lightning have till nowadays to finalize their opening-night roster, however their crew is largely set for Tuesday’s season opener in opposition to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The Lightning will open the season with 22 lively gamers, one shy of the league prohibit, as rookie forwards Cole Koepke and Gabriel Fortier earned the final spots, each making their first opening-night NHL rosters.

“We like this group that we have here right now,” trainer Jon Cooper mentioned after Saturday’s 5-2 preseason-finale win over the Panthers at Amalie Arena. “So when we hit the road, this should be the group.”

As has been the case getting into contemporary seasons, the Lightning had to carry out some salary-cap gymnastics to change into compliant getting into the season.

The Lightning positioned defenseman Philippe Myers on waivers, hoping his $3.95 million cap hit over the following two seasons will save you groups from claiming him by means of 2 p.m. nowadays. General supervisor Julien BriseBois mentioned the transfer used to be now not efficiency comparable and the group is top on Myers’ attainable.

The Lightning may also reassign Koepke to AHL Syracuse quickly, and after filing their preliminary roster, they plan to recall him. He is waiver exempt, which means he may also be reassigned to the minors with no need to transparent waivers.

The Lightning additionally signed ahead Pierre-Cedric Labrie, 36, who hasn’t been with the group in just about two weeks, to a two-way contract that comes with an incentive bundle that can permit the Lightning to accommodate the bonuses for a few of their entry-level potentialities if they’re wanted.

The Lightning may also acquire a long-term damage exemption for retired defenseman Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million) and a prorated exemption for heart Anthony Cirelli’s $4.8 million contract ($25,900 an afternoon) whilst he’s on long-term injured reserve after July shoulder surgical operation. Cirelli is anticipated to go back in mid-December.

The Lightning didn’t request a long-term damage exemption for defenseman Zach Bogosian, out till overdue November after offseason shoulder surgical operation, however may just get prorated reduction for his $850,000 contract for this season if they want it later.

All the ones strikes put the Lightning $33 underneath the $82.5 million cap for this season. By comparability, the Lightning had been $712 underneath the cap ultimate season to open the yr and $333 underneath two seasons in the past.

“Every year, we’re trying to make sure that we at least have the option to use as much cap space as possible and put it on the ice and be as competitive as possible in NHL action,” BriseBois mentioned.

Forward Steven Stamkos didn’t play Saturday (undisclosed factor), and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (lower-body damage) additionally rested. Cooper mentioned each must be to be had for the opener.

Several rookies, in particular younger defensemen such as Myers and Haydn Fleury, seemed extra comfy as the preseason stepped forward, even though the protection restructuring will likely be a piece in growth.

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“We do have a bunch of new guys playing for us right now,” Cooper mentioned. “You want to make sure that they’re feeling comfortable, that veteran guys here, they’re feeling comfortable. Everybody’s different, but our team took some good strides (Saturday).

“We’ve got a ways to go, but like health, confidence in the players making plays, some of our big guys were really making plays, and that’s what you want. So I think everybody starts feeling good about themselves.”

Koepke, a 24-year-old who performed his first complete professional season in Syracuse ultimate yr, at all times had an inside of monitor to a roster spot. The group likes his sport and believes he can turn out to be a top-six ahead. For now, he’ll most probably be a typical at the 3rd or fourth line. Fortier, who performed 10 video games for the Lightning in the midst of ultimate season, will get started out serving as the thirteenth ahead.

“I think I’ve shown a lot of flashes in potential that I can play at this level,” Koepke mentioned.”It’s only a topic of having the whole lot down and doing it in a constant means. … That’s going to be my easiest likelihood to stick round and play right here.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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