SUNRISE — With his playing time reduced because of the emergence of some of the young defensemen called up from AHL Syracuse, the Lightning sent Nikita Nesterov to the Canadiens before Thursday's game against the Panthers in exchange for D Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round pick in June's draft.
"It was mostly related to our roster," GM Steve Yzerman said. "We were able to acquire a draft pick and potentially not lose a player."
Nesterov, a 2011 fifth-round Lightning draft pick, has played in 119 games over the past three seasons. He was a healthy scratch 13 times in 49 games this season. Nesterov would have had to clear waivers to be sent to Syracuse.
"If he wasn't going to play, if we put him on waivers, we think we'd lose him," Yzerman said. "Just changing our roster a little bit."
Nesterov scored three goals this season, including one during the third period Tuesday that tied the score and helped the Lightning rally for a much-needed 5-2 win at Chicago.
Racine, who played at AHL St. John's, will continue his season at Syracuse. He has played in one NHL game, and that came during the 2013-14 season when he was in the Panthers organization.
Yzerman said defenseman Luke Witkowski and Jake Dotchin are playing well. D Slater Koekkoek, now at Syracuse, has played well there and in the NHL, and could be headed back to Tampa Bay.
The trade does clear salary cap space, but Yzerman said that wasn't much of a factor.
POINT GETTING CLOSER: C Brayden Point continued to skate with the team while wearing a red no-contact jersey. He took shots during 2-on-1 drills and worked on faceoffs.
"I can shoot, stickhandle. No pain," Point said. "It's a good feeling."
Point missed his 14th game Thursday with a fractured bone in his right hand. Coach Jon Cooper said the rookie would be listed as day-to-day once the team returns Monday from the three-day All-Star break that begins today. Cooper said he hoped Point could return Tuesday against the Bruins or Thursday against the Senators.
"Until he gets the final clearance after the break, I can't say yes," Cooper said.
Point said he shot the puck with a little more authority Thursday, which he said was a sign of improvement.
"Every day you try to do a little more. I'm shooting and taking some light faceoffs, and it's feeling fine," he said. "Hopefully it keeps progressing."
Point suffered the injury Dec. 20 during the third period against the Canadiens when he was struck by the puck.
"It hurt, but I just thought maybe it was one of those bone bruises or a bad bruise, something like that," Point said. "It was unfortunate that it was broken."
HEALTH WATCH: LW Michael Bournival missed the game with an upper-body injury. He was listed as day-to-day. … D Jason Garrison returned to the lineup after missing two games with an illness.