After yet another run to the Stanley Cup finals, some decisions needed to be made, thanks to the NHL salary cap.
Winger Ondrej Palat headed off to New Jersey, while reliable defenseman Ryan McDonagh was traded to Nashville.
Much of the nucleus remains intact, and naturally, the Lightning is viewed as one of the top title contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Even with the departures of Palat and McDonagh, this is still one of the older teams in the league, with four of the top seven returning scorers older than 30. There will come a time when the Lightning needs to rebuild following the loss of key veterans. But that is not the case for the 2022-23 season.
The NHL playoffs odds have Tampa Bay in the mix for another long playoff run, with the Lightning third among Eastern Conference teams in the NHL Presidents’ Trophy odds.
Tampa Bay Lightning Odds
- To win Stanley Cup +900
- To win Eastern Conference +400
- To win Atlantic Division +275
- To make playoffs Yes -700 / No +475
Player to Watch
- Player to Watch: D Victor Hedman
Take your pick of star players at different positions. Center Steven Stamkos, winger Nikita Kucherov, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy could fit the bill here.
The choice is 31-year-old defenseman Victor Hedman. Size, speed, intelligence, and physicality, Hedman has it all.
He is at his best in the postseason when the Lightning leans on him much more than they do in the regular season.
Hedman is coming off a season when he had career-highs with 20 goals and 85 points during the regular season. He followed that up with 19 points in 23 playoff games.
Perhaps the best thing about his season is that he played in 82 games after missing time during the previous two seasons. According to the sportsbook, he will be among the top candidates for the Norris Trophy.
- Breakout Watch: C Anthony Cirelli
Tampa Bay is not a team that will rely on many unproven players, so it is time to look at younger veterans who could see expanded roles.
Cirelli is a player who has earned rave reviews for his defensively responsible play. His offense is still a work in progress. He scored 16-19 goals in three of the last four seasons, and his 43 points a season ago was one of his career best. Cirelli should be topping the 50-point plateau sooner rather than later while drawing challenging defensive assignments.
Cirelli was a third-round pick in 2015, and he has more points than eight of the forwards selected in the first round. However, the best is yet to come for the 25-year-old Cirelli. He has been slowed by injury in the preseason, which could limit his impact in the early stages of the 2022-23 season.
Tampa Bay Lightning Outlook
The rest of the Eastern Conference is probably tired of the annual success of the Lightning. According to the NHL betting lines, Tampa Bay will be one of the teams to beat once again, with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Zucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman leading the charge.
It will be interesting to see how Philippe Myers fits in after the defenseman was acquired in a deal for Ryan McDonagh. The Lightning also added forward Vladislav Namestikov and defenseman Haydn Fleury. In addition, veteran goalie Brian Elliott was signed, and he could help ease the load on Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Keeping the veteran players healthy has been an issue in recent years. However, that hasn’t slowed down the Lightning in the playoffs. Defenseman Zach Bogosian and center Anthony Cirelli are among the Tampa Bay players with injury concerns.
Tampa Bay will look for younger players like Ross Colton, Nick Paul, and Brandon Hagel to take the next step.
The preseason has been a struggle, with Tampa losing each of its first four games. However, it figures to be a different story when the games start counting.