Offseason Review: Tampa Bay Lightning

Now that the dust has settled on a wild NHL offseason, let's take a look at how each team did in regards to drafting and free-agent signings. Today, we'll look at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In case anyone had forgotten, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the span of 10 months. For the last two seasons, we have likely seen this core at the peak of their potential, where even with the loss of Nikita Kucherov for an entire season they were still more than good enough to make the playoffs and, once he returned, dominate the rest of the league going forward. Their greatest enemy was not another NHL team, but the salary cap, which on a team with this many elite players is bound to catch up eventually. We saw the beginnings of that even last year, where the team had to bend the cap rules in order to ice their eventual Cup-winning team. This offseason we saw it to an even greater effect. GM Julien BriseBois is going to have a tougher and tougher time holding this team together given the contracts on his ledger, and some pieces began to fall away in summer 2021. Let's see how much has changed for the defending champs.

Free Agency:

Some big losses felt here. Yanni Gourde was claimed by Seattle, and Tyler Johnson was traded to Chicago, although this did see a return in Brent Seabrook. Still, those are two talented depth centremen that are no longer on this roster. Also departing are winger Blake Coleman, signed in Calgary for six years, as well as David Savard, a deadline acquisition who has moved on to Montreal. These were all big contributors to Tampa's Cup wins, and they've moved on.

The Lightning still have their core together, which means they'll still be a good team regardless of who surrounds them. This was accentuated by the signing of Brayden Point to an 8-year contract, locking him down as the team's top centre and likely future captain if and when Steven Stamkos calls it a career.  The Lightning also re-signed Stanley Cup hero Ross Colton, who scored the only goal in the 1-0 victory that won it all this year. Also re-signed were Call Foote and Alex Barre Boulet to two- and three-year deals respectively. These two players will have more significant roles to play on the team in 2021-2022.

From the free-agent market, the biggest addition is arguably Corey Perry, who signed with Tampa for two years. Despite his age, Perry has proven in back-to-back seasons that he's still got game. He's appeared in the last two Cup Finals, losing both to the Lightning. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em seems to be the sentiment here. Also signed was defenceman Zach Bogosian, who won a Cup with the Lightning in the bubble before signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He's back in Tampa on a three-year deal. Brian Elliot was signed for one year to replace Curtis McElhinney as backup, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare joins the team on a two-year deal.

To round things out, Taylor Raddish and Boris Katchouk were re-signed to three-year two-way deals, Gemel Smith was re-signed to a two-year two-way contract, and Taylor Raddish, Fredrik Claesson, and Otto Somppi were also re-signed, all on one-year two-way contracts. Maxime Legace, Charles Hudon, Gabriel Dumont, Andrej Sustr, Darren Raddysh, and Remi Elle all came off the free-agent market to sign in Tampa Bay, all on one-year two-way contracts.

Grade: C; Lots of new names coming to town, but none that adequately replace what was lost, particularly in the forward group. Knowing Tampa half of these guys will turn into All-Stars once they're playing on the Lightning roster, but as of right now, this is a team hit by massive losses to their scoring depth.


No surprise here, but the Lightning traded away a good chunk of their draft picks this year in exchange for their shot at another Stanley Cup. It paid off, so I doubt too many fans are upset by that, but it still means that top-end prospects are exactly flooding the team's pipeline. That said, Tampa still managed to select seven players at the draft, but five of them came no earlier than 160th overall, and in this Draft in particular, that's the equivalent of a bag of magic beans.

Their first pick this year wasn't until 96th overall, where they selected defenceman Roman Schmidt. Schmidt is a massive 6'6" right-shot Dman who looks like he plays slow until an attacker tries to beat him. Then he's all size and pace, pinning players to the boards and relieving them of the puck. He's not exactly dominating on the scoresheet, but he's the type of guy you want playing a shutdown game anyway, and that's where his skill set lies. He'll get his first taste of OHL hockey this year with the Kitchener Rangers.

Tampa's next pick was 126th overall, which is already deeper in the draft than we'd normally examine, but that's the way it goes when a team only drafts in the late rounds. Here the Lightning selected Dylan Duke, who is also relevant this late in the draft because he could be a steal. Standing only 5'10" Duke's game involves playing the net-front presence, and he does a good job of it. The plan with him is always to drive the puck into the crease and swat at it until it goes in. That, or stand in front of the crease and look for deflections, rebounds, anything loose that could be driven home. Considering this, his 29 goals in 50 games for the U.S.A.'s U18 National Team suggest he's pretty good at cleaning up those loose pucks, a skill that is always valued in the NHL. He'll play for the powerhouse University of Michigan team next season.

Grade: B-;  Not a lot to work with at this draft for the Lightning, and it shows in the prospects they wound up with. Still, knowing this team's development history, there are good odds that a few of these kids pan out, with Duke already looking like a potential steal.

Overall grade: C+; There's no denying it, Tampa Bay suffered this offseason. They didn't have the cap space to get in on any big names, and in fact had so little space a few big names had to be shipped out. This is still a playoff team, the core is simply too good not to be, but they're a lot closer to the rest of the league than they were a couple months ago.

What do you think about the gains (and losses) for Tampa this summer?

Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports