Three questions facing Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL.com offers in-depth analysis of each of its 32 teams from August 8 through September. 8. Today, three important questions face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

[Lightning 32 in 32: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]

1 can Brandon Hagel Produced in the top six?

When Lightning acquired Hagel in a business deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 18 forward Taylor Radish And the Boris Kachuk And conditional picks in the first round in the 2023 NHL Draft and 2024 NHL Draft, the 24-year-old forward was hoping to develop into a 30-setter.

He scored 21 goals in 55 games with the Blackhawks before the trade, but had four goals in 22 regular season games and two in 23 playoff games with Lightning. He also fractured a foot during Game Two of the second round of the Eastern Conference against the Florida Panthers, prompting coach John Cooper to turn him into a more defensive role than he could cause in attack.

Hagel will be relied upon to produce offensively this season, and the season could start in sixth place Ondrej Balat Departure in a free agency and Anthony Cirelli Maybe until December to recover from off-season shoulder surgery.

Video: TBL @ TOR, Gm2: Hagel hits the ball in a crease in the net

2. How will they overcome the departure of Balat and Ryan McDonagh?

To maintain flexibility under the NHL salary cap, Lightning was unable to match a five-year, $30 million contract ($6 million average annual value), Palat signed with the New Jersey Devils on July 14, trading defender Ryan McDonagh To the Nashville Predators on July 3.

Balat spent his entire 10-season career with the Lightning team. The 31-year-old striker was a key part of the Stanley Cup tournaments in 2020 and 2021 and tied Tampa Bay’s top spot with 11 goals during the playoffs last season.

“He’s going to be an all-time great player for Tampa Bay Lightning,” said Julien Presboa, Lightning’s general manager. “It was part of a lot of our victories.”

Hagel, Nicholas Pol And the Ross Colton Could keep up with more icy time ahead as bales go.

McDonagh was traded to Predators on July 3 for a defensive man Philip Myers and future prospects Grant Mismash. The defending 33-year-old has been a constant presence in the past five seasons of Lightning, most recently in the second pair with… Eric Cernack.

Mikhail Sergechevwho signed an eight-year, $68 million (US$8.5 million) contract extension on July 13, is expected to up his game with McDonagh’s departure.

“I expect Mikhail Sergachev to be invited to play a bigger role,” Presboa said. “He’s ready and fit for those responsibilities.”

3. Can they stay healthy?

The wear and tear of three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final is starting to show during the post-season 2022 and will leave Lightning short for this season’s start.

Cirelli and defenseman Zach Bogosian They each underwent off-season shoulder surgery after the final, and BriseBois expects both to return in November or December.

center Brayden Point He ruptured his right quadriceps muscle, forcing him to miss 14 play-offs and the striker Nikita Kucherov She played through MCL torsion during the playoffs. All of them are expected to be ready when the season begins at the New York Rangers on October 11.

If Tampa Bay aims to remain a contender for the Stanley Cup, it will need its best players to stay healthy.