“It’s been a crazy few weeks,” said Pettinger, who was claimed off recall waivers from the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
While it’s unclear when Pettinger might find his way into the Lightning lineup – although Saturday is looking like a possibility after Radim Vrabata was ruled out with a groin injury – he has been a productive player during his five seasons in the NHL including a 20-goal campaign with the Capitals in 2005-06. But once Glen Hanlon was fired by Washington, Pettinger fell out of favor and was traded to Vancouver at the trade deadline last season for Matt Cooke.
Heading into training camp, Pettinger figured to be a lock to make the Canucks roster, which was thin on offensive talent, but found himself on the waiver wire before the start of the season and, after clearing waivers, reassigned to Vancouver’s American Hockey League affiliate despite a one-way deal that pays him $1.1 million this season.
“I don’t really know what went on and nobody really told me why,” Pettinger said.
Pettinger said he hopes he can show the Lightning coaching staff he belongs in the NHL, and he has the motivation to stay.
“I don’t want to go back to that league again,” he said.
There’s a good bet, however, that Pettinger is going to stick around. Because the Lightning claimed him on re-entry waivers Tampa Bay is responsible for only half his remaining salary and only takes half the salary cap hit. And with those numbers in the $550,000 range, Pettinger becomes somewhat of a bargain for what he can bring to the team.
“He’s a good penalty killer, a very good skater and can play both wings,” Lightning coach Barry Melrose said. “You can never have enough guys who you can move around.”
But one thing the Lightning say will not factor into any hockey decisions involving Pettinger is his relationship with Tampa Bay co-owner Len Barrie. Pettinger was a teenager when he first met Barrie and often worked out with him during off seasons and would often call Barrie for advice. The two are now business partners, as well, after Pettinger invested in the Bear Mountain Resort owned by Barrie in Victoria, British Columbia.
“As much as he is my friend, it’s too much of a business to bring someone in because he’s a buddy,” Pettinger said. “He’s the first one to tell you, the NHL is serious business and he’s here to do one thing, and that’s win.”