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Tampa Bay Lightning: Season preview 2017/18

Tampa Bay Lightning: 2017/18 NHL season preview. With a healthy Steven Stamkos, can the Lightning take another run at the Stanley Cup in 2018?


Tampa Bay Lightning

Despite only having Steven Stamkos for 17 games and Ryan Callahan for 18, the Tampa Bay Lightning made an impressive late-season surge and barely missed playoffs in 2016/17.

In fact, they finished only one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final wild card spot. What’s more impressive about Tampa’s late season run was that they were able to do it after trading away key players in Ben Bishop, Valtteri Filppula, and Brian Boyle during the season.

Heading into 2017/18, we should expect a sunnier season in Florida, as they will have a healthy Stamkos back in the lineup, along with several young players ready to take a big step forward.

The Lightning should be a popular pre-season Stanley Cup contender pick. With that said, let’s take a look at an overview of all the roster changes this offseason, and what we can expect to see from the 2017/18 edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Additions

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Chris Kunitz (LW)

Tampa Bay signed the four-time Stanley Cup champion to a one-year, $3 million deal on July 1st.

Chris Kunitz is coming off back-to-back championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 37-year-old is no longer the 25-goal scorer he once was, but he should still provide quality minutes for the Lightning as a depth forward on the third or fourth line.

Dan Girardi (D)

After being bought out by the New York Rangers, the Bolts signed Dan Girardi to a two-year deal worth $6 million.

Although Girardi is 33-years-old and may be on the decline, he should still be able to play some solid minutes as a complementary defender in a second or third pairing role.

In many ways, this is a nice “stopgap signing” by general manager Steve Yzerman. It buys time for young defenders like Jake Dotchin, Mikhail Sergachev and Slater Koekkoek to get acclimated to the NHL.

Mikhail-Sergachev-Montreal-canadiens.jpg

Mikhail Sergachev (D)

Mikhail Sergachev was acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens. He is one of the best defensive prospects not in the NHL and is projected to be a top pairing defenseman someday.

The Lightning currently has Victor Hedman anchoring the team’s blueline with plenty of depth for support. So there is no pressure for them to rush Sergachev into the lineup if they don’t feel he is ready for the NHL.

Subtractions

Jason Garrison (D)

Jason Garrison was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights at NHL expansion draft.

The 32-year-old played the past three seasons in Tampa Bay and had his best year during the 2014/15 season, accumulating 30 points in 72 games.

Jonathan Drouin (LW/C)

Due to cap restraints and other contract extension obligations (Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat), the Lightning couldn’t find a way to retain Jonathan Drouin.

As a result, he was shipped to Montreal in the blockbuster trade that brought back a good prospect in Mikhail Sergachev. Drouin is coming off a career year, scoring 21 goals and 53 points in 72 games.

In Montreal, the Canadiens will likely give Drouin an even bigger role and expect him to be one of the key offensive players. Ultimately, there is a good chance Drouin can have a breakout year this coming season.

Moving on up

Andrei-Vasilevskiy-Tampa-Bay-Lightning.jpg

Andrei Vasilevskiy (G)

With former starter Ben Bishop no longer on the team, Andrei Vasilevskiy is officially the  Lightning’s number one goalie.

Although Vasilevskiy is unproven as an NHL starter, he has put up decent stats in his past three seasons as the Lightning’s backup goalie. (Courtesy of hockeydb.com)

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Goalie
Born Jul 25 1994  -- Tyumen, Russia 
Height 6.03 -- Weight 207

Selected by Tampa Bay Lightning round 1 #19 overall 2012 NHL Entry Draft

Season   Team                        Lge    GP   Min   GA  EN SO   GAA   W   L   T   Svs    Pct
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2012-13  Ufa Salavat Yulayev         KHL     8   297   11   0  1  2.22   4   1   0   133  0.924
2013-14  Ufa Salavat Yulayev         KHL    28  1601   59   0  3  2.21  14   8   5   707  0.923
2014-15  Syracuse Crunch             AHL    25  1469   60   0  2  2.45  14   6   5   667  0.917
2014-15  Tampa Bay Lightning         NHL    16   864   34   2  1  2.36   7   5   1   381  0.918
2015-16  Tampa Bay Lightning         NHL    24  1252   58   8  1  2.76  11  10   0   588  0.910
2015-16  Syracuse Crunch             AHL    12   711   23   1  1  1.94   7   4   1   331  0.935
2016-17  Tampa Bay Lightning         NHL    50  2848  123   0  2  2.61  23  17   7  1357  0.917


                                            --- Regular Season ---  ---- Playoffs ----
Season   Team                        Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM  GP   G   A Pts PIM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2012-13  Ufa Salavat Yulayev         KHL     8    0    1    1    0  --  --  --  --  --
2013-14  Ufa Salavat Yulayev         KHL    28    0    1    1    2  18   0   1   1   0
2014-15  Syracuse Crunch             AHL    25    0    0    0    2  --  --  --  --  --
2014-15  Tampa Bay Lightning         NHL    16    0    0    0    0   4   0   0   0   0
2015-16  Tampa Bay Lightning         NHL    24    0    0    0    0   8   0   0   0   0
2015-16  Syracuse Crunch             AHL    12    0    0    0    0  --  --  --  --  --
2016-17  Tampa Bay Lightning         NHL    50    0    2    2    2  --  --  --  --  --
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         NHL Totals                         90    0    2    2    2  12   0   0   0   0

He is playing behind a very good Tampa Bay team and does not need to play like Carey Price every night to help his team win. As long as Vasilevskiy plays good enough to not be a liability, the Bolts should have little problem becoming a playoff team in 2018.

Brayden Point (C)

Brayden Point was a pleasant surprise for Tampa Bay last year. In his final 32 games of the season, Point scored 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points and played a key role in the Lightning’s offense.

Point finished his rookie season with 18 goals, 22 assists, and 40 points in 68 games and we should expect him to build on that in 2017/18. Point’s play has shown that he is capable of embracing a bigger role; perhaps he is the perfect candidate to take over the minutes left behind by Drouin.

Jake Dotchin (D)

Jake Dotchin joined the Lightning mid-season last year and impressed the team to keep him around longer than anticipated. He suited up for 35 games, recorded 11 assists, and also saw some quality minutes as Victor Hedman’s partner.

The Bolts is obviously high on Dotchin and believes he will be the future of their blueline. With both Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi in their thirties, don’t be surprised to see a player like Dotchin get every opportunity to surpass them on the depth chart in the next few years.

What can the Tampa Bay Lightning achieve this season?

Steven-Stamkos-Nikita-Kucherov-Victor-Hedman.jpg

GM Yzerman has put together a very wonderful Lightning outfit, which is capable of competing for multiple championships.

They have one of the best top-nine forward lineups in the NHL, which includes Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat. In addition to that, they have amazing depth players in Chris Kunitz, Ryan Callahan, Brayden Point, and Cedric Paquette rounding out the offense.

Their defense is no slouch either, as they have one of the best defencemen in the league in Victor Hedman. On top of that, they have several promising young players in Jake Dotchin, Mikhail Sergachev and Slater Koekkoek with the potential to be impact players very soon.

Essentially, the spine of this team (Stamkos, Kucherov, Johnson, Palat and Hedman) all fall in the age range of 24-27 and will be in their prime for several more years.

Taking all this into consideration, the Central Florida franchise can very likely be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals next spring. Moreover, with all their big names under contract, they have all the makings to be a powerhouse team with a Stanley Cup window wide open for the next three to five years.

Projected finish

Based on pre-season projections in my previous article, Tampa Bay should be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic Division next year.

After a minor setback last year, this team looks refreshed and ready to go on another deep playoff run in 2018.

They have two legitimate superstars in Kucherov and Stamkos and have a perennial Norris Trophy candidate in Hedman on the backend.

Aside from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa should be one of the favorites in the East to make the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018.

Do you agree with this analysis? What do you think Tampa Bay can achieve in the 2017/18 NHL season? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to vote in the poll.

  1. Can the Lightning make the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017/18?

    1. Yes
    2. No
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CP Ching

Avid sports fan from Hong Kong, holding University degrees unrelated to sports and journalism. Like everyone, I have many passions, and they include writing about the NHL and the NBA ? 

Tampa Bay Lightning: Season preview 2017/18

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