By Damian Cristodero
The Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday suspended right wing Mattias Ritola for not reporting to AHL Norfolk, and put him on unconditional waivers for the purposes of terminating his contract. Ritola said he will play in Europe “to get back to the NHL.”
The situation is not contentious. Ritola said he has “nothing bad to say” about his time with the Lightning, and general manager Steve Yzerman said he “understands where (Ritola) is coming from.” If Ritola, who was assigned to Norfolk last week, clears waivers Yzerman will work to terminate Ritola’s contract so he can move on.
“I don’t want to hold him back in his career,” Yzerman said.
“I spent four years in the minors,” Ritola said. “I feel that this is the way to go in my career right now. I’m going back there to get back to the NHL.”
It would be foolish to believe Ritola doesn’t have something already lined up in his native Sweden. His agent Don Baizley wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Ritola, 24, was acquired in October 2010 off waivers from the Red Wings. He battled an inner ear problem last season and had four goals and eight points in 31 games. Playing behind Brett Connolly, Blair Jones and Tom Pyatt, Ritola this season had zero points in five games before he was assigned to Norfolk.
“He just hasn’t had a chance to get into our lineup and play regular minutes,” Yzerman said. “For us to keep Brett Connolly and other players we feel are better players for the roles they’re in, we don’t have a spot for him in our lineup. This enables him to move on with his hockey career.”
Hard feelings? “Not at all,” Ritola said. “They’re been great to me, especially last year with my ear problem. I appreciate everything they did for me.”