Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 2014 2:11pm
It's been a tough few days for wing Richard Panik, who was placed on waivers by the Lightning Wednesday.
But Panik, 23, was happy to find out he got claimed by the Maple Leafs Thursday, ready for a "fresh start."
"The last 24 hours I was really nervous about it," Panik said. "Now it's finally behind me and I got picked up by Toronto and I'm very excited about it. It's a great organization."
Panik, the Lightning's second round pick in 2009, was given every opportunity in Tampa Bay, playing in 75 NHL games the past two seasons. While Panik boasts the size (6-1, 208) and the offensive skills, he never reached the desired consistency and compete level, which is why he was sometimes a healthy scratch last season, and why he was the odd-man out on the 23-man roster this year.
Panik sensed something was up when he didn't play in Saturday's exhibition finale, and was disappointed it didn't work out in Tampa Bay.
"Tampa Bay is a great organization, it was really fun playing here and it didn't work out, but I tried my best," Panik said. "I had to try to make the team and it didn't work out. I was a little bit disappointed but now it's a fresh start for me."
Panik knows he'll have to step up his game in order to crack the Maple Leafs' lineup, admitting there's "more pressure" playing in Canada.
"Toronto is a great place to play and it'll be great to play in front of those fans," Panik said. "I've just got ot bring my 'A' game every night and that's what I need. It was my major problem in Tampa, be consistent, and I'm just going to do my best and hopefully it's going to work out."