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Tampa Bay Lightning Season Preview 2022-23

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The Tampa Bay Lightning is coming off of a 2021-22 season that saw them lose in the Stanley Cup finals to the Colorado Avalanche in 6 games. While this is a successful season by almost every other NHL team, the Lightning had won the two previous Stanley Cups to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. So, how can the Lightning get back to the top spot in the NHL, and what could their NHL season preview look like?

Assistant coach Derek Lalonde left to take the head coaching job with the Red Wings. Lalonde had been an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning for the four previous seasons under head coach Jon Cooper. Former Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill will replace Lalonde because of a prior relationship with Cooper. Cooper and Blashill met while Cooper was coaching at Lansing Catholic High School and Blashill was an assistant at Ferris State University.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and general manager Julien BriseBois need to beware of a possible brain drain from an organization that has made it to three straight Stanley Cup finals. This is to be expected as the NHL and every other professional sports league is a copycat league in which teams try to emulate what has been successful in the past. The current general manager of the Red Wings, Steve Yzerman, was in Tampa Bay when he hired Lalonde from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.

BriseBois made moves during the 2022 offseason that set up the Lightning not only for next season but also for years to come. Some of the moves were to sign players that are superstars in this league and others were for players that are not as well known. Forward Nick Paul was acquired by the Lightning ahead of the 2022 trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators and signed a 7-year $22.05 million contract extension. Paul has scored 5 goals and 14 points in 21 regular season games with the Lightning.

Left-winger Ondrej Palat left the Lightning for the New Jersey Devils during the offseason in free agency. The 31-year-old signed a 5-year contract worth $30 million. Palat was quoted as ‘It’s awesome.’ ‘I’m really excited that I joined New Jersey. The talk with [general manager] Tom Fitzgerald went really well and it was great and I’m really happy I joined the New Jersey Devils.’

This was after Palat had a tumultuous time deciding whether or not to move on from the Lightning. The draw of a team that has been to the Stanley Cup finals three seasons in a row was no match for the financial incentive of a new contract. In 2021-22 Palat scored 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points in 77 regular-season games played. Additionally, Palat scored 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points in 23 playoff games for the Lightning.

These moves were made due to the Lightning being up against the salary cap but have not seen the Lightning’s confidence wane. At $82.5 million, the salary cap is expected to remain flat for the time being. Defenseman Victor Hedman was recently quoted in The Athletic as saying that the team has ‘still got some jam in our legs – and in our heads.’ A player on any team, especially with the talent of Hedman will always be the last to know that their window to win a championship is shut.

When Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Nashville Predators BriseBois added defenseman Philippe Myers as a reclamation project. Myers ended up with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL for part of the season. BriseBois has signed Myers to a one-year extension that drops his salary cap hit from $2.55 million to $1.4 million. This trade was made in order to clear the way for BriseBois to get restricted free agent deals done for Anthony Cirelli and defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak.

BriseBois indicated that he sees Sergachev having a larger role with the Tampa Bay Lightning given the recent departures. At 24 years old the played in the second most games of his career in 2021-22 at 78. Sergachev signed an eight-year contract extension in the offseason with an AAV of $8.85 million. Hedman said that Sergachev’s ceiling is sky-high, and we predict that this could play out in this NHL season preview.

All of these moves were made in order to extend the Tampa Bay Lightning’s window to win a Stanley Cup. At some point, this run will end. What remains the same is the head coach Cooper’s leadership. The fact that captain Steven Stamkos is 32 years old means that his career is coming to an end. That is despite the fact that he played 81 games during the 2021-22 season, and is a key part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s NHL season preview.

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