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Lightning make minor league trade with Buffalo

Tampa Bay trades for Devante Stephens and assigns him to Syracuse
Fans gather in Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena before the start of the 2019-2020 NHL season home opener between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers on Thursday, October 3, 2019, in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]

TAMPA — The Lightning made a minor-league trade with the Sabres the day before they meet at Amalie.

At first look, this is an extremely rare trade between divisional opponents and right before the play, but this one involves players a step or two steps removed from the NHL.

Tampa Bay acquired defenseman Devante Stephens in return for Matthew Spencer. Both players are in the final year of their entry-level contracts and have spent most of their time in the ECHL.

The Sabres drafted Stephens in the fifth round in 2015. The 22-year-old has played seven AHL games over his first two seasons, the rest in the ECHL. This season, he has one assist and a zero plus-minus rating in three ECHL games. He has another chance at the AHL now, as the Lightning has assigned him to Syracuse.

The Lightning drafted Spencer in the second round of the same draft. He played 39 AHL games in his first season but 11 last year and two so far this season.