BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The Lightning enters today's final exhibition game with HC Slovan one short of the 24-man roster limit thanks to RW Michel Ouellet being on waivers.
Ouellet either will be claimed by noon or sent to AHL Norfolk.
W Nick Tarnasky was traded to the Predators for a 2009 sixth-round pick that could turn into a fifth if he plays 55 games.
The move will save about $525,000 off the salary cap. It also prevents having to make one more tough decision down the road as Tarnasky (thumb) was to go on injured reserve to keep him off the roster count for at least seven days.
"It's really just a numbers deal at this stage," vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said, "Now we really are pretty much, kind of getting there."
Ouellet's move has more immediate consequences. It brings the roster to 25. The last trim must be made by 3 p.m. Friday as the team opens Saturday and Sunday in Prague against the Rangers.
The cut will come at forward. Tampa Bay has seven healthy defensemen on the roster, and until Paul Ranger (shoulder) is cleared to play, it is unlikely the team would limit its options.
At forward, wings Jason Ward and David Koci seem most vulnerable while other parts are moving. For example, if Jussi Jokinen is at center instead of wing, Tampa Bay has five in the middle. Would Ryan Craig then move to wing? And what is the ripple effect?
It all makes Lawton wish the process was over and, at the same time, it has given him more time to think.
"It seems like it's flown by," he said of preseason. "At other times, it seems like it's been forever."
MORE MOVING PARTS: With Vladimir Mihalik on the team, at least short term, Lawton plans to rotate him and fellow rookie D Matt Smaby to and from AHL Norfolk. He said it is a way to give both players a taste of the NHL.
CIGER SPEAKS: Talk about a small world. HC Slovan coach Zdeno Ciger played for the Lightning in 2001-02 and had six goals and 12 points in 27 games before panic attacks helped end his Tampa Bay career.
"That was because I didn't have a good time with coach, John Tortorella, that guy," Ciger said. "I couldn't sit on the bench and not help the team. … I was nervous because I was really disappointed. I could not help. If I'm not playing, I'm dying."
Ciger, who led HC Slovan to the past two Slovakia elite league championships, said he uses that sensibility with his players. "If you're talented, if you're good, I don't think it's a good idea to bench him or let him sit," he said. "These are the guys who are going to do the winning."
GAME TIME: Mihalik of Slovakia said the game "is a big deal."
"People are coming from the other side of the country buying tickets," he said.
HC Slovan owner Eric Assimakopoulos, a real estate investor and New York native who said he dreams of owning the Rangers, said about 1,000 seats remain in the 8,000-seat Samsung Arena. He admitted he "probably overpriced the tickets," as high as $1,100 for premier seats.
He said he just wanted the event to break even.
MORE MOVES: C Zenon Konopka and RW Brandon Bochenski cleared waivers and can report to Norfolk.