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yave1964

Bolts offseason primer

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FINAL RECORD 54-23-5 113 points first in Division, lost in conference final to Capitals.

 

  The Bolts had their best record in franchise history and simply ran over everything in their path cruising to easy victories over both New Jersey and Boston before bowing out in the conference finals in 7 games to the Capitals. 

  Nikita Kucherov (39-61-100) started like a house afire before cooling down but had a career year, Stamkos was brilliant, Brayden Point established himself as a top six fixture with his dynamic play. Gourde came from nowhere to establish himself in the middle six, Tyler Johnson had 4 points against the rest of the league and 46 against the Red Wings who offered to rename Little Caesars Pizza Arena after him if he would slow down just a bit against them. JT Miller came over from the Rangers and was a point a game player in his 19 games with the Lightning. Killorn and Palat….. Okay can we just say that their forward depth was the best in the game and be done with it? 

  On defense Hedman was probably the best blueliner in the game. Sergechev, part of the payment for Drouin from Montreal was a beast for much of the year, Girardi, Coburn and Stralman were veteran intelligent defensemen and Ryan McDonough came from from the Rangers and will be the puck mover in the second pairing making the team deadly.

  In net, Vasilevskiy won 44 games and may win the Vezina. Domingue came from Arizona and was more than adequate. 

 Some stuff went wrong, JT Brown started slow and was dispatched, Koekoek was pretty bad. Kunitz and Callahan look like they are done.

 

FREE AGENTS

Kunitz and Sustr are UFA and wont be back. The Lightning only have 7 million in cap space and have a herd of RFA to resign including Miller, Koekoek, Erne and Paquette. Depending on if the cap raises, the Bolts may have to move someone out.

  2018-19 may be the last season the team is built as currently constituted, next offseason both Kucherov and Point are RFA and newcomer McDonough. is an UFA next offseason not as important as the big three already mentioned but all valuable are Girardi, Stralman, Coburn and Gourde. The window may be one more year.

 

TOP PROSPECTS

 Cal Foote will not step into a role this year but next year when a lot of the veteran blueliners leave he will take a spot on the back end. Anthony Cirelli needs a strong camp to make the team but he is hoping to crack the lineup as the third line center and he has plenty of offensive ability. Taylor Raddysh is probably a year away but is looked at as a future top six winger. Not much NHL ready talent but the Bolts have drafted well and are hoping to have folks like the kids listed above by the time free agency forces some tough decisions.

 

OFFSEASON QUESTIONS

 

KUCHEROV OR POINT, IF ONE GOES WHO IS IT? 

At first glance that seems like a no brainer but Point plays a more coveted position as a center and will make much less money than Kucherov. The odds are that one will not be with the Lightning come 2019-20 and if I were a betting man I would bet on Kucherov being the one moved out for prospects and cheaper players.

 

 OLD GUYS GIRARDI, STRALMAN AND COBURN PLAY KEY MINUTES ON THE BACK END, CAN THEY DO IT AGAIN?

 Girardi rediscovered love for the game and the other two are old pros and leave ego at the door so the three are ideal but they are another year older, mybet is two of the three regress this season nd need replaced by years end. Koekkoek isn't a favorite of mine by a long shot but he is adequate, Dotchin has a bit of upside but the Lightning like veterans especially on the back end and Yzerman is a great GM who is bold and will do what needs done. My bet is Coburn and Stralman will fall apart his season.

 

ARE THE BOLTS CUP CONTENDERS? I would say they are on the short list as favorites, wouldn't you? They will return pretty much whoever they want, Mcdonough and Miller are there for the whole season so there is a good chance that they will be at least as good next year as this. They were relatively injury free this past season and that stuff can change a lot from year to year but if they remain healthy there is no reason not to have them on the short list of teams that will challenge for the cup. After next season all bets are off but for one more year at least the Bolts are as good as any in Hockey.

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