12/4: The Panthers have recalled Balinskis to the NHL roster, after sending him down on December 1st. He missed one Panthers game with his assignment.
12/1: The Panthers announced Friday that defenseman Uvis Balinskis has been assigned to AHL Charlotte. This is the first demotion of his NHL career after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Panthers last summer.
The 27-year-old Balinskis joined Florida after spending the first eight years of his professional career in Czechia and Russia. He’s been a fixture on the Latvian national team throughout that time, representing them at the World Juniors, World Championship (on multiple occasions), and the Olympics. Last season, Balinskis recorded a career-high 35 points in 50 games for Czech Extraliga team Bili Tygri Liberec, drawing NHL interest in the process. It earned him a one-year, two-way deal with an $870K cap hit.
In his first NHL season, Balinskis has largely been effective in a depth role. Skating in 15 games, he averaged just 13:50 per contest, notching a goal and an assist with a +1 rating. His possession numbers have been strong – a 53.9% Corsi share at even strength and strong advanced metrics – but he’s offered little in the way of play-driving ability. He’s been an effective signing for what the Panthers brought him in to do, but with Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour both returning from season-opening injuries last month, Balinskis’ role in the lineup evaporated.
As a first-year NHLer, Balinskis is exempt from waivers. The Panthers can ferry him up and down from the minors as they please this season, and he’ll likely be brought back up at some point. Sending Balinskis to the minors leaves them with six healthy defenders, as Josh Mahura remains on injured reserve and depth puck-mover Mike Reilly was claimed off waivers by the Islanders last week. Because of his age, Balinskis will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.