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31 in 31

Inside look at Tampa Bay Lightning

Veteran core seeks redemption with eyes on Stanley Cup

by Corey Long / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

31 in 31: Tampa Bay Lightning

31 in 31: Tampa Bay Lightning 2019-20 season preview

NHL.com's Dan Rosen and NHL Network's Mike Johnson discuss the biggest questions facing the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2019-20 season

  • 06:57 •

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, with one of the most talented rosters in the NHL, are again among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup but will have to bounce back from a major disappointment.

The Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round after winning the Presidents' Trophy with an NHL-record-tying 62 regular-season wins (1995-96 Detroit Red Wings) and leading the NHL with 319 goals, 30 more than the second-ranked San Jose Sharks.

 

[Lightning 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

Tampa Bay reached the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 and 2018 but has not won the Cup since 2004.

"We have the structure in place to be successful," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said in April. "We've had some really good playoff runs in the past. We had a really good regular season and it didn't translate into playoff success." 

The Lightning have not re-signed restricted free agent center Brayden Point. Their lineup will be a bit different this season after trading forward J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks for multiple draft picks June 22, and signing defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a one-year contract Aug. 5, four days after the final two seasons of his four-year contract were bought out by the New York Rangers, and forward Pat Maroon to a one-year contract Aug. 24.

Video: Talking Lightning offseason, Point contract situation

Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois said he believes there's plenty of good hockey left in 30-year-old Shattenkirk, who had 28 points (two goals, 26 assists) and was minus-15 in 73 games last season, his 10th in the NHL. 

"He's a young veteran that's played in a lot of games, a lot of meaningful games," BriseBois said. "He's seen pretty much every situation that can come across as a defenseman over the course of a season."

Shattenkirk likely will be paired with Victor Hedman, who had 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) last season after being voted the winner of the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL in 2017-18. Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Braydon Coburn and Mikhail Sergachev will be the other regular defensemen. Jan Rutta and free agent signings Luke Schenn and Luke Witkowski will provide depth.

Video: Victor Hedman is ranked No. 2 on the list

The Lightning have said they expect to sign Point before training camp begins in September, BriseBois said. The 23-year-old, who had an NHL career-high 92 points (41 goals, 51 assists) last season, his third in the NHL, is their best two-way forward and often is matched up against the opponent's top line. 

"I don't have a precise timeline," BriseBois said July 29. "I feel very optimistic ... [Contracts with players like Point who don't have arbitration rights as Group 2 restricted free agents] are just a little more complicated to get done, and the deadline to get something done is essentially the start of training camp."

Point would again play on a line with forward Nikita Kucherov, who was voted the winner of the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP last season after he had 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), the most in the NHL since Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Mario Lemieux had 161 and Jaromir Jagr had 149 in 1995-96. Kucherov had 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists) in 2017-18. 

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Kucherov

Stamkos had an NHL career-high 98 points (45 goals, 53 assists) last season. There is a chance he will move to wing if 22-year-old center Anthony Cirelli is given a regular top-six role. 

Returning forwards Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, Mathieu Joseph and Alex Killorn make up the rest of the expected top nine, but coach Jon Cooper will tinker with the lines early in the season. 

Cedric Paquette signed a two-year contract to return as the fourth-line center, but he will have new linemates after Ryan Callahan (Ottawa Senators) and Adam Erne (Red Wings) were traded; the Lightning had announced that Callahan would go on long-term injured reserve with a degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine.

Maroon will likely play in one of those spots. The 31-year-old had 10 goals and 28 points for the St. Louis Blues last season and will bring size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds), grit and experience to the checking line. He also played a major role in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the champion Blues, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Dallas Stars.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL last season, signed an eight-year contract extension July 29. The 25-year-old went 39-10-4 with a 2.40 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and six shutouts.

Video: Andrei Vasilevskiy claims the No. 1 spot on the list

"Obviously, Andrei is a key member of our NHL team," BriseBois said. "He's arguably the best goaltender in the world and he's just entering his prime now. We had the opportunity to lock him up to a contract that made sense for our organization."

The goalie depth chart will look a little different after Tampa Bay signed Curtis McElhinney to a two-year contract to back up Vasilevskiy. Louis Domingue, who went 21-5-0 with a 2.88 GAA and .908 save percentage last season, remains on the roster, but the Lightning will try to trade him to a team that will offer him a chance to be the starter.

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