To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: Tampa Bay Lightning
2014-15 record: 50-24-8, 2nd in the Atlantic
How they finished: Lost in six games to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals
Coach: Jon Cooper (4th season)
Notable additions: RW Erik Condra
Notable subtractions: D Mark Barberio, LW Brenden Morrow
RELATED: Rangers captain back to 100 percent
Schedule against the Capitals: Fri. Nov. 27 at Washington, Sat. Dec. 12 at Tampa Bay, Fri. Dec. 18 at Washington
Outlook: The playoffs served as a coming out party for the young Lightning as they came within two wins of winning the Stanley Cup. Everyone knows about Steven Stamkos, but now you know about the triplets--Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat--and Ben Bishop looked fantastic in the playoffs with a .921 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Tampa Bay quickly erased the memory of their sweep at the hands of Montreal in the first round just the year before.
But for a team as young and as talented as the Lightning are, the window may already be closing for this squad. The reason is money.
Johnson and Palat are under contract for only two more years as is young defenseman Victor Hedman and both goalies Bishop and Andrei Vasilevski. Kucherov and Stamkos are entering the final year of their contracts.
Tampa will not be able to re-sign all of them.
So while last season the ascension of a very young, exceptionally talented Tampa Bay, this team as it is currently constructed may be gone by next year and it may start with Stamkos.
The main goal for general manager Steve Yzerman this offseason was re-sign Stamkos and now we find ourselves in late August and Stamkos remains without a new contract.
You had one job....
Perhaps the team sees Stamkos as expendable or less important compared to the rest of the core--not signing him frees up a lot of money for the triplets--or perhaps his asking price is far too high and would mean dismantling the team. Or maybe there's no issue at all and both sides are close to getting a deal done. The point is that these are the questions that the team will be hearing from now until the situation is resolved.
Still, looking at the roster, you have to like what you see and the fact that the biggest issue for Tampa is off the ice is a good indication of how strong this team is on it.
Expectations: It's not a surprise that the Lightning did very little in the offseason because there was very little they needed to do. Just by returning with their roster largely intact, Tampa is already one of the frontrunners to win the East. They also are not blind to their pending cap issues and know they may only be able to keep this team together for one or two years. Expect the Lightning to be aggressive on the trade market to address any issue that they may have over the course of the season in a push to go all the way this year.
As the defending conference champs, Tampa is the team to beat in the East. It's hard to see how they won't be one of the top Cup contenders this season.
See more team previews:
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30