When Nick Tarnasky broke his thumb on the first day of training camp it robbed him of the chance to audition for a job on the Tampa Bay Lightning's overcrowded forward ranks.
Monday, Tampa Bay traded Tarnasky to Nashville in order to help alleviate the team's glut of forwards. Michel Ouellet was also placed on waivers and teams have until noon today to claim Ouellet, who has one year left on his contract at $1.3 million. The team has not decided whether Ouellet would be assigned to Norfolk if he goes unclaimed.
"We have roster moves that have to be made before we start the season,'' Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. "Nashville had called about Nick several times over the summer, but I said I wanted to be able to see him live. That didn't happen and unfortunately this is part of the business.''
With Tarnasky, who was acquired for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2009 which can turn into fifth-round pick if he plays in 55 games, and likely Ouellet out of the team's plans, the Lightning have 15 forwards still remaining in camp, with only today's game against HC Slovan in Bratislava, Slovakia, still on the team's preseason schedule.
The Lightning open the regular season Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, against the New York Rangers and must have their final roster submitted to the league office by 3 p.m. Friday.
"We have one more to make [by the roster deadline], probably at forward,'' Lawton said.
Ideally, the Lightning wanted to have their roster down to 24 or 25 before the team left for Europe last week but a competitive environment in training camp - and some injury issues involving captain Vinny Lecavalier and Tarnasky - made decisions difficult for the management and coaching staff to make.
"People have really pushed themselves forward and that's what we wanted,'' Lawton said. "But it's time to get down to our team.''
But that won't come until at least one more move is made to get the roster down to the maximum of 24 players, one more than normal to allow for the teams playing in Europe to allow for an extra goaltender.
Assuming Paul Ranger, who has yet to be cleared for contact following offseason shoulder surgery, is placed on injured reserve, the Lightning will carry seven defensemen into Saturday - Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, Janne Niskala, Shane O'Brien, Mike Lundin, Andrew Hutchinson and rookie Vladimir Mihalik.
The three goaltenders for the two games in Europe will be Mike Smith, Olie Kolzig and Karri Ramo.
That leaves Tampa Bay with one more cut to make, which will likely come among one of the 15 forwards. Lecavalier, who underwent shoulder surgery in the summer, made his preseason debut Sunday and is scheduled to play again today. He appears to be ready to start the season to center the top line between Marty St. Louis and Vinny Prospal.
Rookie and overall No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos will center the second line with Ryan Malone and likely Radim Vrbata. Veterans Chris Gratton, Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi are a lock while Jussi Jokinen appears to have won a spot with a strong preseason showing. While Adam Hall and Evgeny Artyukhin appear to be safe, that leaves David Koci, Jason Ward and Ryan Craig as the bubble forwards hoping to leave a final impression on the coaching staff.
Of those three players considered to be on the bubble, Craig and Ward are the only two scheduled to play in today's preseason finale. Vrbata, Koci and Roberts are scheduled to sit out.