After playing in their third straight Stanley Cup final, this will be a year of transistion along the blue line for the Lightning.
The air is starting to feel a bit cooler, the nights are getting longer, and that must mean one thing. Another season of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey is right around the corner.
The Lightning is coming off a season where they played in the Stanley Cup final for a third consecutive season, losing to the Colorado Avalanche in six games.
The Lightning seems to lose one of their key players every season due to salary cap restraints. Last year, Yanni Gourde was lost to Seattle in the expansion draft.
This year it was forward Ondrej Palat who signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils. The Lightning had been planning for that day since the trade deadline as the Bolts acquired Brandon Hagel from Chicago and Nick Paul from Ottawa.
Braydon Point and Nikita Kucherov talked about Palat and what he meant to the team.
Paul was a significant force in the playoffs scoring big goals and delivering big plays throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was a busy off-season for the Lightning, spent inking some of their young players to long-term contracts.
Nick Paul signed a seven-year contract. Defensemen Mikhail Sergachev signed an eight-year deal, as did forward Anthony Cirelli. Defensemen Erik Cernak signed an eight-year deal.
Cirelli will miss the first month or two of the season as he recovers from off-season surgery.
The Lightning also brought back a familiar face in Vladislav Namestnikov as the Bolts signed him to a one-year deal.
With Detroit and Dallas last season, Namestnikov played in 75 games scoring 15 goals with 14 assists. Namestnikov is projected to play on the second line with Braydon Point and Alex Killorn.
On the blue line, things will look slightly different for the Bolts this season. Ryan McDonagh, a huge piece of the Stanley cup runs the past three seasons, was traded to the Nashville Predators in a salary cap dump this off-season.
Jan Rutta was also not resigned to save some salary cap space. Instead, Rutta signed a three-year 8.25 million dollar deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Zach Bogosian will be out till at least mid-November as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.
With the loss of McDonagh and Rutta, the Bolts signed former Penquin Ian Cole to a one-year contract. Cole has a championship pedigree as he won back-to-back cups with the Pens in 2016 and 2017.
Cole had two goals and 17 assists with the Carolina Hurricanes last season.
Also joining the Lightning on the blue line this season will be Philippe Myers and Haydin Fleury.
Myers, acquired in the McDonagh trade, is another young defenseman at just 25 years of age but has a big body that should be good on the penalty kill and retrieving pucks in the corner.
The Lightning signed Fleury to a two-year contract. Fleury spent last season with the Anaheim Ducks.
The best goaltender in the world, Andrei Vasilevskiy, returns in a goal with Brian Eliott as the backup.