The Tampa Bay Lightning have officially opened training camp as they begin defense of the Stanley Cup.
Can the Lightning become the first team since the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2016 and 2017 to win back to back Stanley Cups?
This question and other vital questions will need to be answered before the season opener, and that will go a long way to determine the Lightning chances of repeating.
How will the team replace the production of Nikita Kucherov? No one can replace the 33 goals and 25 points on the power play. Braydon Point, Ondrej Palat, and Steven Stamkos will begin the season playing together. Whether this line stays together will have more to do with the production of second, third, and fourth lines.
Who will take Kucherov’s spot on the power play? Braydon Point is getting the first chance and will probably start the season in his place.
Will the Lightning trade either Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson mid-season? Salaries will have to be dumped at some point. All the Lightning did was kick the can down the road moving around Kucherov’s salary for this season. My guess is Alex Killorn is shipped out. The Lightning could then lose Tyler Johnson to Seattle in the expansion draft.
Can the Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions? Yes. It will be more of a challenge without Kucherov. Although he should be ready by the time the playoffs start, there are no guarantees. Columbus, Dallas, and Carolina will give the Lightning all they can handle in division play during the regular season.
As the Lightning was celebrating winning the Stanley Cup, GM Julien BreisBois was planning on how to keep this team intact.
Erik Cernak, Anthony Cirelli, and Mikhail Sergachev all needed their contracts redone. With the roster constructed the way it was, there was no chance the Lightning could sign these three players to contracts and stay under the salary cap.
Some hard decisions would have to be made.
The Lightning put Tyler Johnson and his five million dollar salary on waivers, and no one took the bait.
We then heard the news that Nikita Kucherov would need hip surgery and would miss the upcoming season, but would be ready to rejoin the Lightning in the playoffs.
This injury proved to be somewhat of a blessing as Kucherov was put on the LTIR (long-term injury reserve list). His 9.5 million dollar salary would not be counted directly against the salary cap.
The Lightning then traded Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette to the Ottawa Senators for two players on LTIR, Marion Gaborik and Anders Nilsson.
The Kucherov injury and the two trades put the Lightning salary cap at 80.4 Million, which is a little more than one million dollars under the cap.
The Lightning will go into the 2020-21 season with the roster constructed as it is and will have their season opener less than one week against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Lightning will have a 23 man roster for the upcoming season and will also be allowed a 4-6 man taxi squad for this season only.
Here are the possible line combinations for the Lightning. These lines could change up a bit as the season approaches.
The forward lines:
The defensive pairings
The core roster of the Lightning remains intact, and that bodes well for another deep playoff run.