SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers placed forward Rudolfs Balcers on waivers Friday in order to activate star defenseman Aaron Ekblad off long-term injured reserve.
Balcers was claimed off waivers by the instate rival Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon.
The 25-year-old forward scored two goals with four points in 14 games with the Panthers.
Florida, per PuckPedia.com, is about $660,000 over the cap upon activating Ekblad.
By losing Balcers and his annual cap hit of $750,000 the Panthers will become cap compliant.
Balcers did not practice with the team Friday morning and his gear was cleared out of the team’s room at the arena.
“We have to be at 20 when Aaron comes back,” coach Paul Maurice said. “He will go on waivers today and if he is not picked up, he will be assigned. We’re in a very unique situation and we like Balcers a lot.
“I am hopeful we do not lose him because we are going to get nicked up and will need players back up again. But we cannot run 21. … This was a necessary event.”
Balcers has been a nice addition for the Panthers after they signed him to a one-year deal when free agency opened in July.
The only reason Florida had the opportunity to sign Balcers was because the San Jose Sharks bought out the final year of his contract just before free agency opened.
Balcers played in 61 games for the Sharks last season and had a career-high 11 goals.
Florida jumped at the chance to sign him.
But with the team up against the salary cap — the Panthers signed Eric Staal to a one-year deal once Ekblad went on LTIR — someone on the active roster had to go.
On Thursday, the Panthers sent Matt Kiersted, Aleksi Heponiemi and Lucas Carlsson to Charlotte but needed to make one more move.
As was the case before Ekblad got hurt on Oct. 17 and went on LTIR, the Panthers will carry 20 players on their roster.
During Friday’s practice, Ekblad was working with Marc Staal as Maurice wants to keep his other two defensive pairings (Brandon Montour/Gus Forsling and Radko Gudas/Josh Mahura) together although there will be some in-game mixing-and-matching.
Ekblad was also back up on the top power play with Montour, Sam Reinhart, Sasha Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk.
Tkachuk returns to the lineup Saturday after serving his two-game suspension for poking at the face of Jonathan Quick with his stick blade.
PANTHERS ON DECK
EDMONTON OILERS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split 1-1
- All-time regular season series: Edmonton leads 21-14-0, 3 ties