The Tampa Bay Lightning have placed Richard Panik — their second-round pick (52nd overall) at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft — on waivers, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Panik, 23, had yet to establish himself as a full-time NHLer but did appear in 50 games for the Bolts last season, scoring three goals and 13 points while averaging 12:42 TOI per game. He also made his playoff debut last year, appearing in two of four games during an opening-round loss to Montreal.
Panik has, however, established himself as a very good scorer at the AHL level. He had 11 points in 13 games with Syracuse last year, than after scoring 22 goals and 41 points in 51 games the season prior.
The timing of today’s transaction is a bit odd, especially since Panik was taking line rushes at this morning’s practice, according to the Tampa Tribune:
Lines at #tblightning practice: Palat-Stamkos-Johnson; Killorn-Filppula-Callahan; Panik-Namestnikov-Connolly; Morrow-Boyle-Brown
— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) October 8, 2014
It’s possible GM Steve Yzerman was forced to waive Panik due to Tampa Bay’s numbers game. The club already filed a couple of “paper transactions” for Andrej Sustr and Nikita Kucherov, presumably to get roster/cap compliant for Thursday’s season-opener against Florida.
UPDATE: Here’s the skinny on waiving Panik, and an explanation for the timing, per the Tampa Bay Times…
“It’s always been about consistency with him,” assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said. “The skill set is there, the tool box is great. Other guys beat him out for a job. It’s that simple. We’re keeping 23 guys that believe give us the best chance of winning games this year and right now he’s 24.”
The Lightning will find out by noon Thursday if Panik clears, and it hopes he does. What is working in the team’s favor is that by putting him on waivers so late, a day after other teams had to file their rosters with the league, he could sneak through.
If so, Panik still has some work to do with Syracuse. “He needs to not only game in game out but shift in, shift out, be out there trying to make a difference.”