Over the next few weeks, Die By The Blade staffers will take an in-depth look at each of the other teams in the Atlantic Division as the Buffalo Sabres prepare for the 2021-22 season.
Next up: the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Last Season’s Results: 36-17-3, 75 points (109 points over an 82 game season, 3rd in Central Division, won the Stanley Cup)
Key Offseason Acquisitions: Brian Elliot, Zach Bogosian, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Brent Seabrook’s LTIR status
Key Offseason Losses: Yanni Gourde (Kraken), Tyler Johnson (Hawks) , Blake Coleman (Devils), Barclay Goodrow (Rangers), David Savard (Habs), Kucherov’s LTIR status (Lightning)
NHL Contracts Signed:
Forwards: Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, Ross Colton, Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Alex Barre-Boulet, Gemel Smith, Mathieu Joseph
Defensemen: Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Jan Rutta, Zach Bogosian, Cal Foote
Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brian Elliot
Season Outlook: Couldn’t have gone much better for Tampa, just a little back to back Stanley Cup Championships... Where do they go from here? Let’s start with the easy part, the defense and the goalies. Lightning kept Vasilevskiy and all of the defenseman they started the season, while adding old friend Zach Bogosian to a very team friendly contract. Stability? They got it.
For the forwards, the top 6 is still lookin’ pretty good in west Florida. Stud centerman Brayden Point extended 8 more seasons with a solid 9.5 milion dollar cap hit. That gives the Lightning at least 6 more seasons of Point & Kucherov, with a couple more with Cirelli, Stamkos and Killorn. Palat is the odd man out, with this being his last season of his current contract.
On the bottom 6, Lightning got some solid value signings from the free agent pool while giving opportunity for that never ending farm system to keep sending talent up. Perry and Bellemare left Montreal and Colorado to join the champs. For the rest of it, the Lightning are looking at the rest of their farm to see who’s next man up. Using Raw Charge’s TOP 25 under 25 List from before last season, Mitchell Stephens, Mathieu Joseph, Taylor Raddysh, Alex Barre-Boulet, Boris Katchouk and Ross Colton look to have the highest pedigree. Colton had some playoff heroism and that earned him a 2 year contract extension, with Joseph entering his fourth season in the pro’s and Stephens his 3rd.
This is the kind of transition that supposedly hampers a team in the playoffs. Tampa kept their skill, but lost their “grit”, or are trying to replace it. Looks like Vegas odds have the Lightning at 108 points for the upcoming season; I’ll have fun and say they’ll be around 105 points and have a second round exit.
Games vs. Buffalo:
Home: 25 October (7 PM EST), 11 January (7 PM EST),
Away: 10 April (5 PM EST)