Leafs claim Panik off waivers from Lightning

The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired forward Richard Panik from the Tampa Bay Lightning off waivers on Thursday.

The Toronto Maple Leafs claimed forward Richard Panik off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning had waived Panik with the intent on assigning him to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

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Panik registered three goals, 10 assists and 21 penalty minutes in 50 games with the Lightning least season. The 23-year-old also had 11 points in 13 games with the Crunch and represented his native Slovakia at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

“It’s going to be a great motivation for me to play in front of those fans and just bring my A-game every night,” Panik told Tampa Bay media on a conference call Thursday. “There’s a lot more pressure going [to the Leafs] because it’s Canada and especially Toronto. I’m just going to focus on my game and my next step is getting into the lineup and go from there.”

With rookies Jonathan Drouin and Vladislav Namestnikov making the Lightning out of camp, plus Nikita Kucherov showing a higher upside, Panik was left on the outside looking in.

“I tried my best. Even at the camp I tried to make the team, and it didn’t work out,” Panik added. “It’s going to be a new start for me and I’m going to do my best to make the lineup in Toronto. I’m very excited about it.”

Panik has a salary cap hit of $735,000 and becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll be in the lineup when the Leafs host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday.

In other Leafs news, the team assigned forwards Troy Bodie and Josh Leivo to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

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