Barre-Boulet’s Reaching His Final Chance With Lightning

The 2021-22 NHL season was both one to remember and forget for Alex Barre-Boulet. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect went on an unexpected journey, as he was waived at the start of the season and was promptly claimed by the Seattle Kraken. As an expansion franchise, he appeared to be a perfect player for Seattle, as Barre-Boulet was a top American Hockey League (AHL) prospect who was buried under the Lightning’s forward depth that was signed to a low-cost three-year contract. This meant that he could find a new opportunity with the Kraken to showcase his full potential, cost the team little against the cap, and ingrain himself with the fledgling franchise that would be looking for players to market around.

Alex Barre-Boulet, Seattle Kraken
Alex Barre-Boulet, formally of the Seattle Kraken. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, that’s not what happened. Barre-Boulet would post one point in two games played before Seattle waived him once again. This allowed the Lightning to reclaim him, which was a big win for Tampa Bay, as they managed to bring back a player they spent years developing who still had the potential to be a nightly starter.

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Despite returning to the franchise, he played a small role with the Lightning and was sent back to play with their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. While he only scored 6 NHL points throughout the 2021-22 regular season, he absolutely tore up the AHL, posting a Crunch-leading 63 points in just 58 games played. So, this means the talent and drive are still there for Barre-Boulet, he just has to find a way to translate it to Tampa Bay.

What Can Barre-Boulet Bring to the Lightning?

As a team that’s competing for the Stanley Cup, the Lightning aren’t in a position to start players who are only good. You have to be great to break into their lineup, and if you can’t prove yourself fast enough, you will be replaced by a new player. This happened to Barre-Boulet, as he could never draw consistent starts, and eventually lost his opportunity when they acquired Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel at the 2022 Trade Deadline.

If he were a free agent this offseason, this would likely be where Barre-Boulet’s story would end with the Lightning. However, since he still has two years left on his contract, he is in a position to once again prove that he can make it with Tampa Bay. 

Alex Barre-Boulet Tampa Bay Lightning
While Barre-Boulet hasn’t found a consistent role with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he has the talent to still make it in the NHL. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the departure of Ondrej Palat in free agency, the Lightning have a rare hole in their top-six that they will be looking to fill. While this spot will more than likely be filled by a returning veteran forward, it could still present an opportunity for Barre-Boulet. As a scoring winger, he could be a fit in Tampa Bay’s top-nine in a limited role. Even if his defensive game is lacking, they could still get meaningful playing time and scoring output from the 25-year-old forward by giving him limited defensive zone time and allowing him to focus on what he does best.

2022 Training Camp Could Decide Barre-Boulet’s Lightning Future

The question becomes, of course, why would the Lightning work this hard to find a role for Barre-Boulet in their lineup? Well, the reason is simple. As a cap-strapped team, Tampa Bay has to find value anywhere they can. 

Since he is signed to a near-league minimum deal for the next two seasons, there’s a lot of potential value to be found in a player like Barre-Boulet. If they can get a season or two of scoring and passable defensive play from him, then it would be worth it for the franchise. Scoring costs money, and right now, the Lightning simply don’t have a lot of that available. With the cap expected to significantly rise after 2024, his contract could help fill in some gaps until there’s more money available to sign new players.

Read Also: Lightning Players to Watch in the Upcoming Prospect Showcase

Also, we’ve seen this happen a number of times with former Lightning prospects that move on from the franchise due to a lack of fit only to immediately reach their potential after being given a new role with a different team. While comparing Barre-Boulet to these players is unfair, it does feel like Tampa Bay could benefit if they can find a way to make him work in their lineup. The potential is there, and it feels like there will be one more season for both player and team to find a way to make things work.