TAMPA — Veteran D Matt Carle was a healthy scratch Saturday against the Bruins, sparking questions about his future in Tampa Bay.
Carle, 31, is the Lightning's highest-paid defenseman ($5.5 million salary cap hit), and it has been widely speculated that the team has been shopping him. A trade would certainly clear up some much-needed cap space in coming years, with Carle having a $5.5 million hit through 2017-18,
That contract presumably makes Carle difficult to deal, as would his modified no-move clause. But that Carle was benched Saturday was new territory for the admittedly disappointed defenseman, who is in his 11th season.
"You want to play every game," he said.
Coach Jon Cooper insisted the benching was "not anything against Carle," rather just part of trying to get each of his seven defensemen playing time, especially with today being the second game of a back to back.
The only other defensemen that have been healthy scratches this season are Nikita Nesterov, in his first full NHL season, and Andrej Sustr, who is in his second.
"(Carle) will be back in," Cooper said. "It's the case where you can't keep sitting everybody out every single night. It'll be somebody different (today against the Hurricanes). We want a healthy (defense), and it's not anything against Matt Carle. It's going to happen, guys know it, so it wasn't blindsiding."
Carle was professional about the situation before the game, though he declined to provide details of Cooper's reasoning. "I'll let Coop make comments about that," Carle said. "Better coming from him than me."
Carle is minus-3 in 11 games, averaging 18:09 of ice time. Though this may be just a one-time thing, if Carle continues to be scratched, it would be reminiscent of D Eric Brewer, who was routinely benched early last season before getting traded to the Ducks on Nov. 28 for a third-round draft pick.
The Lightning does have organizational depth on defense, including left-shot Slater Koekkoek, Luke Witkowski and 2014 first-round draft pick Tony DeAngelo at AHL Syracuse.
medical matters: The Lightning got a boost when C Tyler Johnson played in the 3-1 loss to the Bruins, having been considered questionable. C Cedric Paquette (ankle) and LW Jonathan Drouin (lower body) continued to be sidelined, and their status was doubtful for tonight. Paquette, who last played Oct. 24, was put on injured reserve; he can be activated at any time.
GOALIE GLUT: With G Andrei Vasilevskiy expected to rejoin the Lightning as early as today, that means Kristers Gudlevskis will soon be sent back to Syracuse, which will create a logjam in net. But GM Steve Yzerman said the Lightning will, "for the time being," keep three goalies with the Crunch: Gudlevskis, Adam Wilcox and Kevin Poulin.
GOOD TIMING: Though C Jonathan Marchessault said it was tough not to make the Lightning out of training camp, being one of the team's last cuts had one benefit: He got to be present for the birth of his second child, Victoria, on Oct. 5.
Marchessault said it was stressful having to clear waivers but was happy to remain in Syracuse until Thursday's callup. Marchessault played the past two games.
"You never know what can happen," he said. "Obviously, I didn't get picked up. That's okay. I love my spot in the organization here, and hopefully I can stay longer."