Lightning Minimized Waiver Wire Losses to Keep Postseason Depth

The 2021-22 season has been a bit of a whirlwind for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their roster. Before the first puck drop, the team lost Alex Barre-Boulet on waivers to the Seattle Kraken. This seemed to set off a series of events on the waiver wire, with the Lightning claiming, losing, and then re-claiming or re-acquiring fringe NHL talent.

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It’s understandable if you don’t follow the NHL waiver wire closely. For a team like the Lightning, these players are rarely able to crack the lineup, as the franchise is flush with talent.

Alex Barre-Boulet Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Barre-Boulet has gone through a whirlwind 2021-22 season, as he was claimed by the Seattle Kraken, played a few games with the fledgling franchise, was re-claimed by Tampa Bay Lightning, played a few more NHL games, then was sent to play in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t make an impact on the franchise heading into the 2022 postseason. In fact, due to how aggressive Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois has been utilizing waivers and acquiring fringe NHL talent, he has managed to stash a number of players with the Syracuse Crunch who have NHL experience that could step in and make a difference throughout the playoffs.

Lightning Starters Who Were Lost on Waivers and Returned

Throughout the season, there were three players lost on the waiver wire who are now back playing hockey in the Lightning’s farm system. While Barre-Boulet is the most well-known of these names, Gemel Smith was also claimed by the Detroit Red Wings before being re-claimed, whereas Riley Nash was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes and was re-acquired in a trade deadline deal for future considerations.

Needless to say, you rarely see one player return to a team after being claimed on waivers, let alone three in the same season. Yet for the Lightning, bringing these players back makes a lot of sense, as they all fill important roles on their depth chart.

Both Smith and Nash are perfect postseason bottom-six forwards, as they are big bodies who can succeed while taking on limited NHL minutes. No, you shouldn’t expect either to be offensive powerhouses, but they can provide a solid 10 minutes of ice-time each night when injuries eventually strike.

Riley Nash Columbus Blue Jackets
Riley Nash has bounced around the NHL over the last few seasons, with the Lightning being his fifth team since 2020-21. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Barre-Boulet, on the other hand, has had multiple opportunities to earn a spot on the Lightning’s roster but hasn’t been able to take that next step in his career for one reason or another. Even with this in mind, he is still a young, highly skilled forward who could provide an injection of offense in a limited top-six role. So, while his defensive game may not be on point, in a pinch he’s a great option to have on your depth chart for the playoffs.

Lightning’s Waiver Moves Have Created Good Playoffs Depth

No team ever wants to lose a player on the waiver wire, as it is the least opportune way to see someone depart your franchise. Ultimately, there is a reason why a general manager signed that player and kept them on the roster long enough to become waiver eligible, and losing them for nothing during the regular season leaves a hole to fill both on the roster and on the depth charts.

For the Lightning, the 2021-22 season had the potential to be a waiver wire disaster, yet through a series of good luck and good timing, this damage has been minimal. Sure, players like Smith, Nash, and Barre-Boulet likely won’t make a big impact for the franchise, but having them on your team still holds an incredible amount of value for a franchise looking to make another deep playoff run.

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So, it’s worth remembering these names as the regular season wraps up and playoff preparation begins. As the Lightning are well aware, you need enough depth to absorb a lost player or two for a few games in the postseason, and Smith, Nash, or Barre-Boulet could be the perfect player who can step up and do more than just fill in a gap when called upon.