NHL Odds: Tampa Bay Lightning Favorites To Win Again
Steven Stamkos has surgery to repair his core muscle injury.
© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning are back-to-back champions, but winning a third straight Stanley Cup is going to be a tall order. For many reasons but not least of all because of the unavoidable roster changes that come part and parcel with the salary-cap era.

The Tampa Bay Lightning emerged victorious at the close of the 2020-21 NHL season, which was shortened and adapted to contend with a number of unique circumstances presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For a second straight season, the Lightning delivered a convincing playoff run that culminated with the coveted title. This year, the Lightning faced the Canadian upstarts, Montreal Canadiens. It was a thrilling contest, short though it was, with the Lightning edging the Habs 4-1 in the Stanley Cup finals to win their second straight title in as many seasons. Lightning fans rejoice!

Winning back-to-back championship titles is no mean feat, to be fair. It’s a testament to the Lightning and the sum total of their parts that seemingly have no visible weaknesses. From netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as his stout play helped deliver the Stanley Cup for the Lightning, to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, Jon Cooper’s roster boast an enviable selection of talent, skill, quality, veteran leadership, and youthful exuberance. So impressive are the Lightning, in fact, There is the blueprint on how a team should be built in the eyes of many NHL insiders and league observers.

Emulating what the Tampa Bay Lightning have accomplished can’t be done overnight, but as the NHL settles into the offseason, there will be general managers around the league hoping to take what little time is available before the first week kicks off in the fall to set their teams on the right path.

Bearing in mind that the 2021 offseason was shortened due to the league’s determination to return to its normal schedule, it’s been a frenzy of activity already. From last month’s 2021 NHL draft, one of the first path-setting occasions that franchises rely on to add skill, talent, size, and potential to the pipeline for the future, to the ensuing free agency, which affords teams the opportunity to add talent that’s readily available and raring to go right out of the gates.

Inasmuch as the Lightning are the envy of the league, there’s absolutely no way that this roster was going to stay largely intact for a third straight season. The salary cap wouldn’t allow it and that’s going to make their bid for a three-peat a right challenge.

Lightning Players On the Move

One of the first departures in the offseason was Yanni Gourde, who was pilfered by the expansion team, the Seattle Kraken. Gourde was an integral cog in the Lightning wheel – a hardworking, no-nonsense player who could also score some nifty goals. His unavoidable departure – somebody had to go to the expansion side, after all – leaves a big hole to fill.

As well, Blake Coleman, becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer, has reportedly signed with the Calgary Flames this week. The Flames signed Coleman to a six-year, $29.4M contract according to NHL insiders. The Canadian outfit is desperate to get back into some measure of contention and with this big signing, the hope is that Coleman will elevate the Flames next season, if not inspire them to make the playoffs.

Elsewhere, the Lightning bid adieu to Barclay Goodrow in the summer, trading the left winger to the New York Rangers for a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and they sent Tyler Johnson to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Finally, defenseman Luke Schenn is headed to the Vancouver Canucks, where he’s signed a two-year deal. The Canucks are coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs. It was a challenging year to be fair for Vancouver, although from the start of the season they weren’t counted amongst the top faves. NHL pick predictions for Canadian Division teams last season had the Canucks at the bottom of the pile, which is where they ended up. The 2021-22 NHL season is expected to resume normal proceedings, which means the Canucks will be back playing in the Pacific Division alongside the Calgary Flames.

Some key moves that have been made thus far including signing Brayden Point to an eight-year deal. Point played a huge part in Tampa Bay’s playoff run and ultimate Stanley Cup win. As well, Steven Stamkos isn’t going anywhere, quashing any rumours of a trade there. Stamkos is a stalwart on the team who’s served as the team captain since 2014. It’s only right that he should be back with the team as they attempt to go for the incredible threepeat.

Additionally, the  Lightning have brought back Zach Bogosian who’d they let go last season. Mathieu Joseph returns for another season as does Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Mikhail Sergachev, Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Alex Killorn, Erik Cernak, Ryan McDough and Nikita Kucherov, who’ll be forever remembered for his post-game speech that will live in eternity., Of course, last but not least, Andrei Vasilevskiy who is the indisputable best netminder in the league right now, will also be playing with the Bolts next season.