An inside look at Tampa Bay Lightning

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For the first time in three years, the Tampa Bay Lightning will begin an NHL season without a Stanley Cup holders title.

Lightning (51-23-8) returned to the Stanley Cup Final, but their quest to be the first team to win the Cup three consecutive seasons since the New York Islanders (1980-1983) ended in a six-game loss to the team. Colorado Avalanche.

“Nobody makes it to the Stanley Cup final not to win the cup,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said on June 28. “You’ll make it to the Stanley Cup final to bring the cup home, especially this year when we had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win three Stanley Cups. Consecutive “.

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Tampa Bay will have to replace players from those cup-winning teams, forwards Ondrej Balat and defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

Balat, who played his entire NHL career for 10 seasons with Lightning, signed a five-year, $30 million contract ($6 million average annual value) with the New Jersey Devils on July 14. He had 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 77 regular season games and tied for the Lightning lead with 11 goals in 21 playoff games last season.

McDonagh, who was second on the Lightning in icy average time during the playoffs (22:26) traded with the Nashville Predators on July 3 for a defensive man Philip Myers and future prospects Grant Mismash.

The lightning also lost the man of defense Jean Rotawho signed a three-year, $8.25 million (US$2.75 million) contract with Pittsburgh Penguins on July 13. Victor Hedman Even in force.

Those departures gave Tampa Bay flexibility under the NHL’s salary cap to keep the tournament window open.

This included the signature of the defense men Mikhail Sergeachev And the Eric Cernack forward Anthony Cirelli Their respective contracts were extended for eight years on July 13.

“We are all young people and it’s clear that these two people are a huge part of the team and maybe I’m involved in that,” Sergechev said. “They are leaders.” Cerny “There blocks shots, eats minutes and plays against the best in the world. Cirelli does the same. I think it’s important to keep these guys so everyone stays together.”

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Sergeyev, who turned 24 in June, will receive $68 million (US$8.5 million). He had 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists) in 78 regular season games and 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 23 playoff games last season. He said finding more consistency will be key to his growth.

“There is a difference between a good player and a great player and that is consistency,” Sergechev said. “I was a bit lacking in that sometimes, but I have to keep working hard because there is a lot of confidence in playing in the second. [pair] left side.”

Cernak signed for $42 million ($5.25 million AAV). The 25-year-old scored 13 points (1 goal and 12 assists) in 55 games and led the Lightning team with 165 strikes.

Cirelli signed for $50 million (A$6.25 million) but the 24-year-old is expected to miss the start of the season after having shoulder surgery after the cup final. It was expected that he would need 4-6 months to recover.

To help fill this void, lightning fell forward Vladislav Namestnikov for one year at a value of $2.5 million. The 29-year-old scored 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) in 75 games with the Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars last season.

Lightning is also excited to see what will happen ahead Brandon Hagel And the Nicholas Pol, all acquired before the NHL trade deadline last season, could do for an entire season. Paul signed a seven-year, $22.05 million ($3.15 million AAV) contract on July 1, before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

“It wasn’t a hard decision for me,” said Paul, who scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 21 regular-season games for Lightning after getting him in a deal with the Ottawa Senators on March 20, and nine points (five goals, four assists) in 23 playoffs. “I wasn’t looking around. I knew this was where I wanted to be and luckily we made it happen.”

Hagel scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in 22 regular season games with Tampa Bay after receiving it in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 18, and six points (two goals, four assists) in 23 playoff games.

Retaining their young talents to support the veteran core that includes Hedman, the attackers Stephen StamkosAnd the Nikita Kucherov And the Brayden Pointthe goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky You should keep the Lightning competition in the cup for several more seasons.

“You go down the list with Point, Coach, Stummer, Heidi, Vassy there,” Cirelli said. “As long as we have these guys, I think we’ll be good for a long time.”