The Lightning made an interesting trade Thursday when it sent backup goaltender Dan Ellis to the Ducks for backup goalie Curtis McElhinney.
At first glance, this is a simple salary dump. Ellis has another year on a two-year, $3 million contract that pays $1.5 million next season, and McElhinney is in the last year of a deal that pays $570,000.
And as Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said, "With some of the decisions we have to make this summer … we needed a (salary) that works better at that position for next year."
But the deal cannot be viewed in a vacuum. It is one of several moving parts that could result in McElhinney, Mike Smith or even AHL Norfolk's Cedrick Desjardins becoming Dwayne Roloson's backup.
Smith, demoted to Norfolk on Feb. 5, was put on re-entry waivers Thursday. We will know at noon today if he is claimed. A claiming team would pick up half of what's left of Smith's $2.4 million salary.
What happens if Smith, in the final year of his contract, is not claimed?
"I just want to wait and see if Mike clears re-entry waivers and then go from there," Yzerman said, adding he does not have another move planned.
Yzerman declined further comment, but it makes sense an that unclaimed Smith would become Roloson's backup.
If Smith is claimed, McElhinney probably would get the job until Desjardins, out since mid January with a right shoulder injury, is ready to play. If the Lightning would promote Desjardins, who impressed in wins with Tampa Bay on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1, McElhinney likely would be sent to Norfolk.
If Desjardins, who is practicing, wouldn't be ready — a decision could come next week — McElhinney, 27, probably would stay with the big club.
A 2002 sixth-round pick of the Flames, McElhinney has struggled in 21 games with Anaheim this season, going 6-9-1 with two shutouts, a 3.43 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage. He is 0-4 in his past four games with a 5.76 GAA and a .779 save percentage, stopping just 67 of 86 shots.
The numbers pale in comparison with Ellis'. He had a terrible time stopping long-range shots in key situations but was 13-7-6 in 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.93 GAA and an .889 save percentage.
But with the Lightning expected to sign star center Steven Stamkos to a big-money deal and with this season's acquisitions of Roloson and defensemen Eric Brewer and Marc-Andre Bergeron, short- and long-term payroll management is paramount.
"This is just the business side of the sport," Ellis said before getting on a plane to the West Coast. "The team had acquired some players recently and has some big financial obligations going forward with (Stamkos') contract and a number of other players."
So no hard feelings?
"I love Tampa. I wish I could have stayed there," Ellis said. "I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the organization or the way anything was handled."
Smith, 1-4 with Norfolk with a 1.80 GAA and a .924 save percentage, has to be happy. He will be playing for the Lightning or another team.
"He played very well in Norfolk," Yzerman said. "I put him through quite a bit through the course of the season. He's been extremely professional. He went to Norfolk, bit his tongue and worked hard. He's fighting for a job for next year."
Just like McElhinney and Desjardins.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.