The BP Mailbag continues this week with more questions for my Alex Kharitonov-sized crystal ball (prospect followers from the Dudley era will understand that reference).
If you believe the rumors that Tommy Pyatt is being shopped, that’s how a roster spot opens up for Stamkos. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see Pyatt waived if Tampa Bay is backed into a corner, but right now I’m of the opinion that Richard Panik would be the one to go down to Syracuse if someone is demoted. Panik’s averaging about 12 minutes of ice time for the year, but around 10 for the last five games and less than that if you spread it out over the last dozen games. He’s also been a frequent healthy scratch. Those are the signs, and they've been there for a while.
The way Jon DiSalvatore looks at it, he doesn’t have much time to waste.
The 32-year-old forward, after being the odd-man out due to a restriction on import players with Munich of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany, wasn’t getting the ice time he had hoped for in his first European season.
DiSalvatore didn’t want to wait around, so he chose to return to North America.
"I just felt like the way things were being run out there, it felt like it was becoming a wasted year, a wasted opportunity," said DiSalvatore, a veteran of 10 American Hockey League seasons. "I don't feel like at this point in my career I have any years to waste."
Now for Part 2 of this week’s mailbag, which was pretty full. Also, there is no literal mailbag. It’s all a lie.
Do you see Vasilevskiy as the backup in TB or the starter in SYR next season? (@boltsjolts)
I can’t see him in Tampa for a few reasons: Lindback will likely be under contract and Vasilevskiy needs games. Give him and Gudlevskis a year in Syracuse to split games and compete against each other while furthering their development. The only way I see Vasilevskiy in Tampa is if there’s an injury, and even then it could be a situation where he and Gudlevskis split as the No. 3 so one is getting games in Syracuse. Stay patient for at least another year. Bishop’s an unrestricted free agent in two off-seasons and who knows what the plan will be. The important thing is TB has options.
What do you think the lightning will do at the deadline?(@tfernandez2190)
Lots of mailbag questions this week, so let’s get right to them:
With all of the young, small forwards in the system, and with Drouin and Kucherov ready to be the 2 small forwards on the top six in 2 years, do you think that they attempt to re-sign St. Louis or do they let him walk when his contract expires next year? (Donnie D via BP Messageboard)
Yzerman haters won’t believe me, but I think it’s up to Marty. If Marty wants to play for another year or two, I don’t see how Yzerman keeps him off the roster (stop laughing, haters, it’s a lot harder to make Team Canada than it is an NHL club). This is coming from someone who wasn’t surprised by Marty’s omission from Team Canada. As long as Marty will accept a cap-friendly contract and is an asset on the ice, I don’t see why he’s not re-signed. I also, respectfully, don’t think Drouin is in the same “small” category as he’s basically about 6’ tall and plays with a big base.
For Brett Connolly, the first one was the hardest.
The Syracuse Crunch forward, who posted 74 points in 89 games last season, went 10 games before registering his first American Hockey League goal this year. Still, he knew it was only a matter of time before the goals would start flowing.
Connolly finally broke through with a power play goal against Norfolk Dec. 6, turning months of frustration into relief.
"I knew it would come around," Connolly said. "At the start of the year, things weren't going in for me, but I think, in terms of my stats, I'm right back to where I was in the first 22 games last year. Usually it works itself out."