Tampa Bay Lightning 2020-21 Season Preview

 

        When fully healthy, the Lightning have arguably three top-10 players in the league, a Stanley Cup, and a lot of cap issues. Directly after winning the cup, the Lightning were able to participate in the tradition of the Stanley Cup winner barely doing anything in the offseason. Tampa Bay re-signing a lot of their players, and cut some loose. Besides that, it wasn\’t an eventful few months, besides the celebrations, of course.

Additions: G Chris Gibson.

Subtractions: D Kevin Shattenkirk, F Cedric Paquette, F Carter Verhaeghe, D Braydon Coburn, D Zach Bogosian.

Best Move: Signing F Anthony Cirelli to a three year deal. 

Worst Move: Trading Cedric Paquette, Braydon Coburn and a 2nd round pick to Ottawa for Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson.

One Move I\’d Make: Raise the salary cap by $10 million.

Best Contract: Victor Hedman, five years remaining with a $7.875 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Ryan McDonagh, seven years remaining with a $6.75 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville.

Pending UFAs: Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Luke Schenn, Curtis McElhinney.

Pending RFAs: Alex Volkov.

Forwards

The main move to make Tampa Bay cap compliant was easily the hardest one. Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire regular season. Kucherov had 85 points in 68 games last year but wasn\’t even in the top-10 in Hart voting. Boohoo for them, they still have an amazing team. Brayden Point scored 25 goals with 64 points in 66 games, but things only got better in the postseason, as he scored 14 goals with 19 assists for 33 points in 23 games. Plus, he\’s only 24. Steven Stamkos was mostly healthy in the regular season, and he scored 29 goals with 66 points in the 57 games he played in. He only got into one playoff game. He\’s a goal scorer at heart, and he\’s moving to the wing, which suits goal scorers more. Ondrej Palat has always had amazing line mates, but has only scored 20 goals once, in 2013-14. He scored 17 goals with 41 points in 69 games last year. He isn\’t a full-time penalty killer, but he does often play on the power play. Anthony Cirelli had an amazing season, and probably could and should have finished higher than in third place in Selke voting. Cirelli scored 16 goals with 44 points in 66 games, with a 15.7 GAR, with a good portion of that coming from his defensive value. He also scored the goal that got the Lightning to the Cup Finals. Alex Killorn, who had hit 15 goals in five of the past six years entering 2019-20, finally broke the 20 goal barrier, with 26. His 49 points were also a career high. Killorn\’s 59 hits were the lowest of his career since the shortened 2012-13 season. Tyler Johnson was waived in the offseason, and while he is still a productive player, he\’s on a contract that the Lightning will want to get rid of. Johnson scored 14 goals with a career low 31 points in 65 games last year. While he paid a fortune for them, GM Julien BriseBois made some great moves when he got Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow at the trade deadline. Coleman scored 21 goals last year, although none of them came in his nine regular games with Tampa Bay. He was huge in the playoffs, with 13 points in 25 games. Goodrow only had six points in the playoff run, but he had 103 hits. He\’s not exactly a goal scorer, as his eight goals in San Jose before the trade was a career high. Yanni Gourde scored 47 goals over his first two seasons, but he had just 10 in 70 games last year. In the postseason, he netted seven in 25 games, getting back to his 20+ goal pace. Patrick Maroon was brought in for his physicality, and he showed that in the playoff run, with 56 hits and 32 penalty minutes. He scored nine goals with 23 points in the regular season. Mitchell Stephens finally got his shot at the NHL after a few years in the AHL. Stephens scored three goals with three assists in 38 games, and he had 10 points in 24 AHL games. He\’s primed for a 4th line center role with Cedric Paquette and Carter Verhaeghe gone. The final spot will be a big competition between Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov. Joseph scored 13 goals in 2018-19, but had just four in 37 games in 2019-20. Joseph spent 29 games in the AHL, and had 21 points. Volkov had one assist in nine games, and got into one playoff game. In the AHL, he had 30 points in 46 games.

Defensemen

Victor Hedman ascended to a new level last year. His regular season went pretty normal for him, as he scored 11 goals with 55 points in 66 games, and finished 3rd in Norris voting. But in the playoffs, Hedman scored 10 goals with 12 assists in 25 games. He was third all-time for goals by a defenseman in a single postseason. He was doing that playing with Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian. The best possible partner for Hedman would be Erik Cernak. Cernak had 12 points in 67 games, with 172 hits and 97 blocked shots. A Hedman – Cernak pairing would be polarizing, with them standing six-foot-six and six-foot-three respectively. The Lightning will keep their second pairing of Mikhail Sergachev and Ryan McDonagh together. Sergachev set a career high with 10 goals last year, and he had 34 points in 70 games. He blocked 99 shots with 106 hits. McDonagh was limited to 50 regular season games, and missed three in the postseason. He had 12 points, with the lowest points per game since his rookie season of 2010-11. The Lightning recently brought back Jan Rutta, who is an option to play with Hedman. Rutta had seven points in 33 games last year, and got into five playoff games. Rutta has an average GAR of 3.9 in his three NHL seasons. Former 5th overall pick Luke Schenn played in 25 regular season games, and 11 more in the playoffs. He had 83 hits in the regular season. The Lightning were Schenn\’s 7th team. The competition is definitely lacking, with Luke Witkowski, who had three points in 12 games last year, being the 7th defenseman.

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy led the league in goaltender wins for the third consecutive season. He had a .917 SV% with a 2.56 GAA and a 12.13 GSAA in 52 games. Vasilevskiy finished third in Vezina voting, and he has been a finalist for the award in each of the past three seasons. He had a .927 SV% in the postseason. After a below average 18 games as a backup, Curtis McElhinney didn\’t get any appearances in the playoffs. He had a .906 SV% with a 2.89 GAA. Chris Gibson has 14 games of NHL experience as the third goalie for the Islanders. He has a .904 SV% in those games.

Projected Lines

Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Steven Stamkos

Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Tyler Johnson 

Blake Coleman – Yanni Gourde – Barclay Goodrow

Patrick Maroon – Mitchell Stephens – Mathieu Joseph

Extras: Alex Volkov.

Victor Hedman – Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev – Ryan McDonagh

Luke Schenn – Jan Rutta

Extras: Luke Witkowski

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Extras: Chris Gibson

Projection

The Lightning showed in the playoffs that they are the league\’s best team. Isn\’t that what winning a Stanley Cup means? While they won\’t have Kucherov until the playoffs, they still have a lot of depth, and some stars like Point, Stamkos and Hedman. Anything besides a first place finish would be a disappointment. 

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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