The Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be cleaning house. Well, not really, but in their own way. A day after trading defenseman Nikita Nesterov to the Montreal Canadiens, GM Steve Yzerman and the Bolts’ brass appear willing to lose a couple more players, as they have placed Michael Bournival and Gabriel Dumont on waivers, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie. While the team is certainly not hoping that either player is claimed and are just trying to return them to the AHL, the moves signal to the team that changes are being made and no one is safe. The decision marks the first time since October that any team has had two players on waivers on the same day.
Bournival and Dumont are not to be mistaken for players that one would be shocked to see on the waiver wire. The former Canadiens teammates chose to sign with the Lightning this summer as free agents in an effort to find a place where they could carve out bottom-six roles, but to this point neither has earned their keep. Bournival, a 24-year-old left winger, has played in 17 games and has just a goal and an assist, while playing about ten minutes per night. Dumont, a 26-year-old center, has played in just eight games and has just one assist, while playing even less than Bournival. The pair has been less than spectacular and Tampa Bay faces little risk of losing them on waivers.
However, the message that it sends, in addition to the Nesterov trade, is that the role players for the Lightning are not playing up to snuff and have become expendable. Yzerman has made a point, through the return on Nesterov and the double-waiver placement, that he’s willing to give away his under-performing depth for just about nothing in return. At the All-Star break, Tampa Bay has 50 points in 50 games, currently sixth in the Atlantic Division, but in reality tied with the Detroit Red Wings for last when counting games played. The team sits well outside the playoff picture right now, and the lack of contribution from everyone outside the top-six forwards and top defensive pair has a lot to do with it. The Lightning are staring down the distinct possibility that they will not just miss the playoffs, but also stand to lose a top scorer like Alex Killorn in the upcoming Expansion Draft too and have to hammer out new contracts with Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and possibly unrestricted veteran Brian Boyle. Yzerman clearly understands that developing bottom-six depth that can actually score and help the team is vital for this season and the future and if you can’t cut it, like Bournival and Dumont, he’s not afraid to lose you.