off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, the
Tampa Bay Lightning had high hopes for a return in the 2015-2016 season. The
team came very close to reaching that goal, losing in seven games in the
Eastern Conference Finals. There were many ups and downs over the course of the
year, including some bad luck with injuries that may have prevented the
Lightning from raising the Cup this year.
Bay has a deep and talented roster, and that depth was tested this season.
Injuries ravaged the lineup so much that the AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch had
to play defensemen as forwards just to fill the lineup. One of the main reasons
the team was able to sustain its winning ways was goalie Ben Bishop. Bishop led
the NHL with a 2.06 Goals Against Average and was second with a .926 save
percentage (among goalies with at least 15 appearances). His injury in Game 1
of the Conference Finals may have been the difference between moving on and
Free Agents: Everyone in the hockey world
knows of the impending unrestricted free agency of Steven Stamkos. The 26 year
old team Captain is one of the best players in the world, and will be highly
coveted by every team in the league. He was forced to miss almost 2 months of
the regular season and playoffs because of a blood clot, but that won’t hold
back any potential suitors. General Manager Steve Yzerman likely will not offer
Stamkos as much as some other teams, so it will be up to him to determine if he
prefers the familiarity of the Lightning or the money of a new destination.
important free agent (restricted) is 22 year old Nikita Kucherov. The Russian
winger led the team in scoring in both the regular and postseason, tallying 19
points in 17 playoff games. He is in line for a significant payday, possibly
around $6.5 million per year.
Picks: Tampa doesn’t pick until late in the first round, so it is hard to
imagine they will find a prospect ready to play in the pros. A potential option
to move up in the draft is to trade disgruntled winger Jonathan Drouin. The 3rd
overall pick of the 2013 draft, Drouin’s time with the Lightning has been tense
to say the least.
being demoted to Syracuse during the season, he left the team and requested a
trade. After no trade was made, he returned on fire. He scored 9 goals in his
first 10 games in the AHL, and put up 14 points in 17 playoff games. A team
looking to make a splash and win soon like the Montreal Canadiens might be
interested to deal their top 10 pick for him.
Agent Additions: The top free agent targets for the Lightning are their own Stamkos
and Kucherov. Other than that, they will likely not be too active in free
agency, looking to add some depth and maybe a backup goaltender.
Labels: Eric Bokobza