The Tampa Bay Lightning are next up in our Atlantic Division 2014-15 season preview.
Use the below Tabs to view Lightnings info for this upcoming season, as well as some numbers from last year.
2013-14 record: 46-27-9, 101 points
Where they finished: 2nd in the Atlantic; 3rd in the East; 8th in the NHL; lost 4-0 in the first round of playoffs against Montreal
Player Salaries: $75,086,022 (24)
Cap Payroll: $70,877,927
Cap Space: -$1,877,927
Retaining Salary: Sam Gagner $1,600,000
Forwards: $35,208,000 (13)
Defensemen: $28,822,060 (9)
Goalies: $3,850,000 (2)
In: Anton Stralman D, Brenden Morrow LW, Brian Boyle C/LW, Evgeni Nabokov G, Jason Garrison D, Jeff Costello LW, Jerome Samson RW, Matt Corrente D, Mike Blunden RW/LW.
Out: Anders Lindback G, B.J. Crombeen RW, Brian Lee D, Cedrick Desjardins G, Charles Landry D, Keith Aulie D, Marek Malik D, Michael Kostka D, Nate Thompson C, Pierre-Cedric Labrie LW, Teddy Purcell RW/LW, Tom Pyatt C/W
No team in the NHL had as good of a regular season, and as bad of playoffs as the Lightning.
All year Tampa Bay (who was thought to be a borderline playoff team heading into 2013-14) rolled past opponents, even with star centreman Steven Stamkos appearing in only 37 games plus playoffs, and trading Martin St. Louis. The main source of Tampa’s success came from the stellar play of goalie Ben Bishop, who flourished last season, becoming the legitimate starting goalie that Tampa lacked.
Despite finishing the season with 46 wins and 101 points, the Lightning were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. In that series, the Lightning lost three of four games by one-goal margins, while Bishop was hurt for all four games. Had Bishop been available, it might have been a different story.
This offseason GM Steve Yzerman looked determined to take his team to the next level, making several trades and free agent signings that have made Tampa even deeper than last year. For a brief moment in July the Lightning looked to have acquired centre Sam Gagner from the Oilers, sending forward Teddy Purcell back to Edmonton in exchange. However, only minutes later Tampa sent Gagner packing to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a draft pick in a salary dumping move. Nate Thompson was another player traded away for a pick to free cap space, this time to Anaheim.
Tampa’s offense, if healthy, should be one of the league’s best. Being one of the teams that employ three scoring lines and one shut-down line, Tampa has all kinds of offensive skill. On the first-line the locks to be there are Stamkos at centre, with Ryan Callahan on his wing. The other winger spot is open for grabs, with players like rookie star-in-the-making Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat fighting for it. Drouin could easily be the one out of those three that ends up winning it, as his dynamite offensive skillset would complement Stamkos very well, with Callahan playing the protector role. On the second-line will be Valtteri Filppula at centre, with Palat (should he not make first line) and one of Johnson, Alex Killorn, or Brett Connolly on the wings. The third-line should find either Johnson or Killorn at centre (both can play wing and centre) with Nikita Kucherov on the one wing, and either Brett Connolly or J.T. Brown on the other. Richard Panik, former Rangers centre Brian Boyle, and the useful veteran Brenden Morrow are likely to round out the forward corps on the fourth-line. Other players fighting for roster spots in this very deep forward unit are 20 year olds Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette, both of whom spent the greater parts of last season in the AHL, finishing second and third respectively in team scoring for Syracuse behind Connolly.
With a deep offensive unit basically already intact, the Lightning decided this offseason that they needed a defensive unit that is equally as deep. First, Yzerman used some of the cap space he freed up in earlier trades and acquiring top-four defenseman Jason Garrison (who is still owed four-years, $18.4 million on his original six-year deal) from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for draft picks. Then, later into the offseason Tampa signed former Ranger standout defenseman Anton Stralman to a five-year, $22.5 million deal. The two players will be added to the already deep defense group from last year, which only lost Sami Salo, Keith Aulie, and Mike Kostka this offseason. The first-pairing will have Victor Hedman paired alongside Matt Carle or Radko Gudas, with Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman making up the second-pairing. The last pair of defense will consist of either Carle or Gudas alongside big Eric Brewer. Mattias Ohlund is also under contract with the Lightning, but will be on the LTIR when the season starts. Plenty of other defensemen, such as Mark Barberio, Andrej Sustr, Slater Koekkoek, and Nikita Nesterov, are of NHL caliber and will be fighting for spots on this team.
In net, Ben Bishop will resume his starter role now that he is once again healthy. Upon his injury, and the lackluster playoff performance of backup goalie Anders Lindback, the Lightning realized the importance for a proven backup goalie, which is why they brought in former star Evgeni Nabokov this offseason to play second-fiddle to Bishop. Lindback is out, but there is still plenty of young competition behind the Bishop and Nabokov tandem that is knocking on the door. Kristers Gudlevskis (a name you might know from the Olympics when he made 55 saves while allowing only two goals for Latvia in a game against Canada) is just about NHL ready, having appeared for Tampa in one game during the regular season and two games in the playoffs last year. Behind Gudlevskis, there is 20 year old Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy, a star goalie in the World Juniors the past two years, who has also excelled against men in the KHL over that span. Vasilevskiy is the top goalie prospect in the NHL, and according to Corey Pronman of ESPN.com, “Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalie prospects of the past 20 years.”
Heading into the 2014-15 season, Tampa is absolutely set in every department. They have an excellent mix of youth and veteran leadership, as well as skill and hockey sense on offense, defense, and in net. Those qualities, combined with outstanding depth, as proven by last season’s performance without Stamkos, shows the Lightning should be able to carry out this success for the next five or more seasons. Next year expect the Lightning to not only make the playoffs in a top three ranked seeding, but to also have a long playoff run. It is Eastern Conference Finals or bust for the Lightning.
Written by Greg Stamper, who can be found on twitter @g_stamp91.
The depth chart listed below was taken from NHL.com’s 30-in-30.
Jonathan Drouin – Steven Stamkos – Tyler Johnson
Ondrej Palat – Valtteri Filppula – Ryan Callahan
Alex Killorn – Brian Boyle – J.T. Brown
Brenden Morrow – Brett Connolly – Nikita Kucherov
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Matthew Carle – Radko Gudas
Jason Garrison – Eric Brewer
Andrej Sustr – Mark Barberio
|Brian Boyle||C||6′ 7″||244||18-Dec-84||HINGHAM, MA, USA|
|J.T. Brown||R||5′ 10″||170||2-Jul-90||BURNSVILLE, MN, USA|
|Ryan Callahan||R||5′ 11″||190||21-Mar-85||ROCHESTER, NY, USA|
|Valtteri Filppula||C||6′ 0″||195||20-Mar-84||VANTAA, FIN|
|Tyler Johnson||C||5′ 9″||182||29-Jul-90||SPOKANE, WA, USA|
|Alex Killorn||C||6′ 2″||205||14-Sep-89||HALIFAX, NS, CAN|
|Nikita Kucherov||R||5′ 11″||171||17-Jun-93||MOSCOW, RUS|
|Brenden Morrow||L||6′ 0″||205||16-Jan-79||CARLYLE, SK, CAN|
|Ondrej Palat||L||6′ 0″||180||28-Mar-91||FRYDEK-MISTEK, CZE|
|Richard Panik||R||6′ 1″||208||7-Feb-91||MARTIN, SVK|
|Cedric Paquette||C||6′ 1″||198||13-Aug-93||GASPE, QC, CAN|
|Steven Stamkos||C||6′ 0″||190||7-Feb-90||MARKHAM, ON, CAN|
|Mark Barberio||6′ 1″||185||24||23-Mar-90||MONTREAL, QC, CAN|
|Eric Brewer||6′ 4″||216||35||17-Apr-79||VERNON, BC, CAN|
|Matthew Carle||6′ 0″||205||29||25-Sep-84||ANCHORAGE, AK, USA|
|Jason Garrison||6′ 2″||218||29||13-Nov-84||WHITE ROCK, BC, CAN|
|Radko Gudas||6′ 0″||204||24||5-Jun-90||PRAGUE, CZE|
|Victor Hedman||6′ 6″||233||23||18-Dec-90||ORNSKOLDSVIK, SWE|
|Mattias Ohlund||6′ 4″||233||37||9-Sep-76||PITEA, SWE|
|Anton Stralman||5′ 11″||190||28||1-Aug-86||TIBRO, SWE|
|Andrej Sustr||6′ 8″||225||23||29-Nov-90||PLZEN, CZE|
|Ben Bishop||6′ 7″||214||27||21-Nov-86||DENVER, CO, USA|
|Kristers Gudlevskis||6′ 4″||190||22||31-Jul-92||AIZKRAUKLE, LVA|
|Evgeni Nabokov||6′ 0″||202||39||25-Jul-75||KAMENOGORSK, KAZ|
A look at the Tampa Bay Lightning top prospects heading into this season. Each source may use different classifications as to if a player is deemed a prospect or has graduated on from a prospect.
|RK||NHL.com||ESPN – Corey Pronman||Dobber Prospects||The Hockey News|
|1||Jonathan Drouin||Jonathan Drouin||Jonathan Drouin||Jonathan Drouin|
|2||Andrei Vasilevskiy||Andrei Vasilevski||Nikita Kucherov||Andrei Vasilevskiy|
|3||Vlad Namestnikov||Vlad Namestnikov||Andrei Vasilevskiy||Anthony DeAngelo|
|4||Slater Koekkoek||Adam Erne||Brett Connolly||Slater Koekkoek|
|5||Adam Erne||Slater Koekkoek||Vladislav Namestnikov||Dominik Masin|
|6||Anthony DeAngelo||Brayden Point||Anthony DeAngelo||Adam Erne|
|7||Adam Wilcox||Nikita Nesterov||Kristers Gudlevskis||Brett Connolly|
|8||Henri Ikonen||Anthony DeAngelo||Slater Koekkoek||Johnathan MacLeod|
|9||Cedric Paquette||Dominik Masin||Adam Erne||Nikita Nesterov|
|10||Luke Witkowski||Ben Thomas||Cedric Paquette||Vladislav Namestnikov|
* Dobber Prospects – Prospects based on relevance in a fantasy-hockey keeper league, not actual talent on the ice.
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft History from the past five years
|1||19||Anthony DeAngelo||D||Sarnia (OHL)||5′ 11″||175|
|2||35||Dominik Masin||D||Slavia Jr (CZE)||6′ 2″||190|
|2||57||Johnathan MacLeod||D||USA U-18||6′ 1″||200|
|3||79||Brayden Point||C||Moose Jaw (WHL)||5′ 9″||160|
|4||119||Ben Thomas||D||Calgary (WHL)||6′ 1″||190|
|6||170||Cristiano Digiacinto||LW||Windsor (OHL)||5′ 10″||186|
|7||185||Cameron Darcy||C||Cape Breton (QMJHL)||6′ 0″||192|
|1||3||Jonathan Drouin||LW||Halifax (QMJHL)||5’11”||185|
|2||33||Adam Erne||LW||Quebec (QMJHL)||6′ 0″||210|
|5||124||Kristiers Gudlevskis||G||USA U-18||5′ 9″||191|
|6||154||Henri Ikonen||LW||Kalpa Jr||6′ 0″||198|
|7||184||Saku Salminen||RW||K-Vantaa (FIN)||6′ 3″||198|
|7||186||Joel Vermin||RW||Bern (SWISS)||5′ 11″||192|
|1||10||Slater Koekkoek||D||Peterborough (OHL)||6′ 2″||183|
|1||19||Andrei Vasilevski||G||Ufa (KHL)||6′ 3″||193|
|2||40||Dylan Blujus||D||Brampton (OHL)||6′ 3″||193|
|2||53||Brian Hart||RW||Exeter HS (NH)||6′ 2″||215|
|3||71||Tanner Richard||C||Guelph (OHL)||6′ 0″||182|
|4||101||Cedric Paquette||C||Blainville – Boisbriand (QMJHL)||6′ 0″||198|
|6||161||Jake Dotchin||D||Owen Sound (OHL)||6′ 2″||207|
|7||202||Nikita Gusev||LW||CSKA 2 (Rus)||5′ 9″||163|
|1||27||Vladislav Namestnikov||RW||London (OHL)||6′ 0″||163|
|2||58||Nikita Kucherov||LW||CSKA 2 (Rus. Jr)||5’10”||163|
|5||148||Nikita Nesterov||D||Chelyabinsk 2 (RUS Jr)||6′ 0″||165|
|6||178||Adam Wilcox||G||Green Bay (USHL)||6′ 0″||170|
|7||201||Matthew Peca||C||Pembroke (CHL)||5′ 8″||155|
|7||208||Ondrej Palat||LW||Drummondville (QHJHL)||6′ 0″||175|
|1||6||Brett Connolly||RW||Prince George (WHL)||6′ 2″||181|
|3||63||Brock Beukeboom||D||Sault Ste. Marie||6′ 1″||202|
|4||96||Geoffrey Schemitsch||D||OWEN SOUND||6′ 1″||180|
|4||118||James Mullin||F||Shattuck-St. Mary’s||5’10”||152|
|6||156||Brendan O’Donnell||F||Winnipeg||6′ 0″||185|
|7||186||Teigan Zahn||D||Saskatoon||6′ 1″||218|
|Martin St. Louis||62||29||32||61||12||6||9||0||5||167||17.4|