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Small moves to big impact

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

While the Tampa Bay Lightning were busy making moves on the ice to reach the Eastern Conference Final for a second-straight season, the front office was busy making moves off it to ensure future success for the franchise.

The Lightning made a handful of under-the-radar deals with players already in the pipeline during the 2016 playoffs. With the offseason now in full swing, we’ll revisit these signings and their impact on the Lightning organization.

Tanner Richard

A third round draft pick (71st overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft, Richard completed his third full season for Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse and set career highs for assists (43) and points (53). The 23-year-old forward played in 71 games for the Crunch and finished the season as the team’s scoring leader. Richard ranked tied for seventh in the AHL for assists. He also added 11 goals, tied for seventh most on the Crunch.

In 214 games for Syracuse over four seasons, Richard has put up 112 points (26 goals, 86 assists) and averages 0.52 points per game.

On May 21, the Lightning re-signed Richard to a one-year, two-way contract. Richard will likely begin next season again in Syracuse, but should his production continue at the level he displayed in 2015-16, he could get the callup to Tampa Bay and make his NHL debut in 2016-17.

Joel Vermin

Like Richard, Vermin was re-signed to a one-year, two-way deal on May 21.

Vermin made his NHL debut with the Lightning this season on November 19, 2015 against the New York Rangers and recorded over 10 minutes of ice time. In his second game in the NHL, Vermin tallied his first point, an assist on Nikita Kucherov’s game-winning, second-period goal in a 5-0 shutout of the Anaheim Ducks.

Vermin played in six games total for Lightning while the team struggled with injuries early in the season, and the 24-year-old right wing capably slotted into the lineup to provide a welcomed offensive spark. In his sixth NHL game at Columbus on December 14, Vermin was injured after blocking a shot early in the game and was forced to sit until late February after undergoing successful hand surgery. Vermin didn’t play again for the Lightning in 2015-16, but he did return to Syracuse and saw time in 37 games total for the Crunch, recording 21 points, 10th most on the team.

Having already shown an ability to be productive at the NHL level, expect Vermin to get a long look in training camp for one of the Lightning’s open roster spots. If Vermin begins the 2016-17 season in Syracuse for a second-straight year, he will likely be one of the first players called up to the Bolts should the need arise.

Anthony Cirelli

Cirelli was Tampa Bay’s third round selection (72nd overall) at the 2015 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old center made his professional debut on April 15, 2016 with Syracuse and played in three games overall for the Crunch, notching three shots on goal.

Cirelli has yet to record his first pro point.

Cirelli spent the majority of the 2015-16 season with Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League, where he led the Generals for assists (38), scoring (59 points), power-play goals (10) and power-play points (20). Cirelli also contributed 21 goals. Cirelli set career highs for goals, assists and points in his second season at Oshawa

In the playoffs with the Generals, Cirelli scored two goals and added three assists in five games.

Cirelli was inked by the Lightning to a three-year, entry-level contract on May 19. Cirelli will likely stay in Oshawa for the 2016-17 season where he can further develop his game before joining the pro ranks for good.

Matthew Spencer

With their second selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning picked Matt Spencer, a 6-foot-1, 203-pound defenseman from Guelph, Ontario, in the second round (44th overall).

In 2015-16, Spencer completed his third season with Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League, playing in 60 games and scoring 5-19—24 points, slightly down from going 6-24—30 points the previous season but significant considering he was asked to play more of a shutdown defensive role for the Petes this season.

Spencer served as an assistant captain for Peterborough in 2015-16.

Spencer appeared in one game for Syracuse following the completion of his year with Peterborough, making his pro debut in the final game of the regular season for the Crunch on April 17 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The Lightning inked Spencer to a three-year, entry-level contract on May 12, the day before the Bolts began their playoff run against the Detroit Red Wings. Spencer will head back to Peterborough for the 2016-17 season where he will look to continue to progress his two-way game.

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