The Tampa Bay Lightning have the gang back together for this season and beyond. General Manager Steve Yzerman was able to work some magic and get the integral parts of the roster signed to new contracts.
In the offseason, Yzerman was able to get J.T. Brown, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov all signed to new two year contracts. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were signed to new eight year deals, while Andrei Vasilevskiy was signed to a new three-year deal. Alex Killorn signed a new seven year deal and Nikita Kucherov was the last to get signed, but he agreed to a new three-year contract. Yzerman was able to keep everyone and at salary cap friendly averages per season.
The key player of the Lightning’s season will be captain Steven Stamkos. Stamos is coming off of a season in which he missed a chunk of time due to blood clots. He did return for the last game of the Eastern Conference Final which Tampa Bay lost, eliminating them from the postseason. Stamkos will need to pitch in some points in order to be effective. If the Lightning want to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final then Stamkos will need to have another good season.
The x-factor this year will be how effective the power play ends up being. The Bolts struggled last year while on the man advantage and finished with the third worst power play percentage in the league (15.8%). They had a top ten power play while at home, but couldn’t buy a power play goal on the road (10.1%). If the Bolts want to win even more game than last season then the power play is going to need to see an improvement. Almost every team in the Atlantic Division got better in the offseason so the Lightning will need to power play to get as many points as they can.
Jonathan Drouin will be the surprise player for Tampa Bay this year. Yes, he really stepped up his level of play after Stamkos went down with the blood clot, but imagine what he could do in a full season with the Lightning. He should put up some big numbers since he’ll get even strength and power play time. He can skate and can be creative in the offensive zone, but he’ll need to make sure to take care of the puck especially in his own zone. Drouin proved that he’s better when he’s engaged in the game from puck drop in the postseason. He isn’t afraid to go to the net and get some goals that way too.
The offense will look almost the same as last season, but with the addition of Brayden Point. They have the talent to put the puck in the net to go with speed and skill. They aren’t the biggest group of forwards in the league, but they have speed which should help them stay out of trouble or get back into a play should they get into some trouble. The Lightning also have a balanced attack so it’s hard to focus on just one line because another one can hurt you. They are a younger group, but they have a plenty of experience.
Tampa Bay has some size on the blue line. They can skate and move the puck out of the defensive zone. The defensemen have no problem jumping into the play in the offensive zone, and will be deep in the offensive zone at times during the game. The Lightning have a decent defensive corps who will play defense and they are a veteran group in terms of experience. They aren’t afraid to block shots and play physical, if needed.
The power play wasn’t good last year especially on the road. The only had 13 power play goals in 129 attempts while on the road. Their 10.1% while on the man advantage on the road was the worst in the NHL, while its 15.8 power play overall percentage was third worst in the NHL. The power play will need to improve and should improve with all the talent that will be on the ice at the same time. The penalty kill was ranked in the top 10, but Tampa Bay could stand to be a little bit more disciplined this year. They were shorthanded 257 times last season.
The Lightning have a majority of its players returning from last year so they should make another deep run in the postseason.