SYRACUSE, N.Y. – It’s been a fairly long drought for Syracuse Crunch fans looking for news. The last time there was really much to report from the Salt City was October, when a small series of signings where the Tampa Bay Lightning squared away restricted free agents Ben Thomas and Ross Colton lit up social media for a brief period. Since then, there hasn’t been much to discuss beyond the Crunch’s COVID-proof teddy toss and their garage sale.
That all changed just this past week when three news stories broke about the Lightning, the Crunch, and the Orlando Solar Bears, the organization’s ECHL partner.
Arguably the biggest news from the past week or so was the Lightning getting defenseman Mikhail Sergachev back under contract with a three-year bridge deal to the tune of $4.8 million. The restricted free agent had been a large piece of Tampa’s offseason puzzle, a conundrum the Lightning’s front office had to solve before moving forward. Securing Sergachev gives the organization one more “for sure” defenseman on their blue line, which should (in theory) also help Syracuse with getting its own house in order.
According to Geo over at Raw Charge, the deal is a good one for both Sergachev and Tampa:
“This is a well-earned extension for Sergachev. Since joining the Lightning for the 2017-18 season, he has recorded 25 goals and 106 points in 224 games. He set a career high in 2019-20 with ten goals, five coming on the power play, also a career high. Sergachev’s ice time has also steadily increased going from 15:22 as a rookie to 17:55 in his second year and then 20:22 last season.”
On the surface, signing Sergachev has only made the Lightning’s cap issues worse, something which Tampa and Syracuse fans alike will want to continue to keep an eye on:
Despite being $1.9M over the ceiling in projected cap space, the #Lightning do still have $5M in off-season cap space at the moment to work with.
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) November 25, 2020
What the Lightning has to do in order to get cap compliant will surely make a good story in the coming weeks. However, I write that with the full knowledge that I’ve been saying it since Tampa won the Stanley Cup in September, soooooo…
Syracuse had some signing news of its own last week involving a familiar face. Defenseman Devante Stephens was brought back to the Crunch on an AHL pact that will last one season. Stephens had been a restricted free agent still on his entry-level contract, and the organization chose not to qualify him. Choosing to let Stephens go to free agency probably allowed the organization a bit more flexibility when it came to negotiating a new contract, and apparently both sides were able to come to a satisfactory agreement.
This past summer, I praised Stephens for making the most of a change-of-scenery-trade that brought him to Syracuse, and mentioned that he’d be an inexpensive option for the cash-strapped Lightning moving forward.
SOLAR BEARS NEWS
Although Orlando isn’t generally my beat – make sure to be following Aiden Foley for that – there was some news just this past Monday that involved both Syracuse and Orlando, so I figured it wouldn’t really be stepping on toes if I wrote a few words on it.
The Solar Bears opened their training camp on November 30, and with that came the news that a few players on contracts with Syracuse would be finally getting to play some puck. Goaltender Clint Windsor, forwards Peter Abbandonato and Nikita Pavlychev, and the aforementioned Stephens were all added to the Solar Bears training camp roster by Syracuse.
Windsor is the organization’s number five goaltender, slotted in for depth behind Chris Gibson and Spencer Martin. Coming into camp and facing an uncertain season, Windsor seems to have a winning attitude:
“It’s a unique time, but obviously I’m happy to have the opportunity and start the year in Orlando and win some games. I’ve been fortunate to earn that contract, but I want to keep working to get to that next level.”
Abbandonato split time between Syracuse and Orlando last season, and will surely be looking to increase his time in the AHL (if their season – currently scheduled to start on February 5 – ever gets off the ground). He totaled 12 points (6g, 6a) in 27 gamed with the Crunch last season.
Pavlychev is new to professional hockey; he played the last four seasons with Penn State University. He was signed to an AHL contract with Syracuse this past summer and was originally drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pavlychev, a center, clocks in at 6’7”, 225 pounds. According to Geo, that could lead to some growing pains (no pun intended):
“He’s still a work in progress and that could be at least in part due to his large frame. Players that are that lanky always seem to take time to figure out their skating mechanics and coordination of their limbs.”
This start with Orlando should be a good jumping off point for all four players. Getting to hit the ice for a training camp about two months before Syracuse is even able to do anything could help them each achieve their goals going into the season. At the very least, it will give the Crunch some meaningful depth options that have been playing hockey all along (hopefully, anyway).
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