The Stanley Cup champion Lightning have partnered with the Florida Panthers to offer use of their American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, for the 2020-21 season.
Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois and Panthers GM Bill Zito jointly announced the plan Wednesday.
It’s a solution to problems created when the Charlotte Checkers, Florida’s AHL affiliate, opted out of the season following safety and logistical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the partnership, the Panthers will be able to assign players to the Crunch to train, practice and play. The Crunch coaching and support staff will remain intact, led by head coach Ben Groulx.
The Lightning and Panthers are both in the realigned Central Division, setting up players potentially playing with each other at the AHL level and against each other in the NHL.
“It’s definitely an interesting dynamic,” said Lightning forward Boo Nieves, who is on a tryout contract with Tampa Bay. “But you know, all in all, it is professional hockey. Everybody’s playing for spots.”
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