This past off-season saw the Tampa Bay Lightning make it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third year in a row. The first two trips resulted in back to back Stanley Cups. For their third trip they had the worst luck possible; they ran into the force of nature that was the Colorado Avalanche.
This is the off season of shedding cap space, which Tampa achieved in a big way with the trade of likeable-hardworking veteran D-man Ryan McDonagh, which gave them another 6,750,000 to work with.
With a few other significant subtractions, and thus far, no significant additions it remains to be seen if Tampa can make another trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the 2022-2023 season.
Round One, 31st Overall- Isaac Howard, LW
The best looking player at the draft, Isaac Howard was a top 15 talent who went 31st overall. I believe that is what the kids call a “steal”.
Howard is always on the move. He consistently plays the game with pace and urgency. Constantly moving his feet and looking for open ice while obsessively calling for the puck. It never crosses over into only wanting the puck for himself, but you have to admire his confidence and moxie.
He has a fantastic shot that he is not afraid to use. He is able to find lanes and get his shots on the net. His near-elite stick handling aids his hunt for open ice as he maneuvers around the opposition.
Howard is a lock for the top 6 and should be on every fantasy GM’s radar come time for the rookie draft of your Dynasty league.
Round Three, 86th Overall- Lucas Edmonds, RW/LW
The first of two overagers that Tampa selected this year, Edmonds is a triple-overager who played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL this year.
He is a smart and crafty player who can get to the right place on the ice with ease and without drawing attention to himself. While his point totals were impressive this year it is important to remember that he is 21 years old playing against mostly 16 and 17 year olds, he SHOULD dominate. This also illustrates that the offence has been there and could be there in future if he can adapt to each step forward he takes in his playing career.
He is not amazing at any one thing but is solid at all things. He can safely project to be a middle six winger, or even top six if he can get more of a killer instinct around the net.
Round Five, 160th Overall- Nick Malik, G
Malik posted sublime numbers in the Liiga this year. In 34 games played he registered a 15-9-9 record with 1.97 GAA and a 922 save percentage to go along with four shutouts. It is also noteworthy to point out that Malik is yet another overager drafted by Tampa this year.
Malik is not a flashy goalie and moves very soundly. He struggles with stopping pucks just below his glove hand and will need to clean that up to find success in the AHL and NHL.
With a few years of development we are looking at an NHL Backup as his floor.
Round Six, 192nd Overall- Connor Kurth, C
Getting Isaac Howard was the first steal of the draft for the Lightning, picking up overager Connor Kurth was the second steal. Playing in the USHL last year and this year, he accumulated 40 goals and 48 assists in 66 total games played this past season.
The first thing that stands out about Kurth is his ability to use his body when taking faceoffs. His wide stance helps him balance until he leans into the opposing player, outmuscling them in the process. He already looks like he can win a ton once he gets to the NHL level.
Kurth has plenty of stick-skills to go around. He has no problem passing behind himself between the legs or swatting pucks out of mid-air to score power-play goals.
He is easily projectable as a third or second line center. The size, the effort, the skill, all in the same package is going to make Kurth my prospect to keep an eye on going forward.
Round Seven, 223rd Overall- Dyllan Gill, D
Dyllan Gill fits the profile of the kind of defenceman that Tampa likes to develop in their system, so it makes sense that they decided to take a swing on this kid in the seventh round.
He’s got wheels and could have more confidence in himself to carry the puck instead of just passing, as he can be an exciting puck carrier to watch.
Gill really shines on the power play. He plays with purpose and intensity. Crisp passing and good puck protection by lowering his center of gravity and leaning into guys, thus extending his reach further away from himself.
Easily could be a second pair defenceman with second powerplay duties that works his way to the top powerplay.
Round Seven, 224th Overall- Klavs Veinbergs, LW
Veinbergs had a very intriguing year playing in both the MHL in Russia as well as the Latvia professional league. He didn’t blow the doors off as far as production goes (24 points in 47 games in the MHL and 5 points in 5 games in Latvia). Regardless, the kid has some raw tools that with proper development can lead to a productive NHL career.
His strengths are definitely his reach and how he is able to protect the puck when he fully utilizes it as well as his quick wrister. His shot is extra deceptive and the way he moves his body when winding up to shoot can make you feel like a big booming slapper is coming, but he’s just tall.
Because he’s a seventh round pick any NHL games that he plays could be considered icing on the drafting cake. He has the tools to make a name for himself as a bottom-6 scoring center. With his ceiling maybe being that of a Nick Bjukstad type.
Brisebois has remained relatively quiet in the Free Agency department this offseason, having mostly signed depth pieces for the Lightning organization. With the salary cap in dire need of relief (they are 7,195,183 over the cap at the time of this writing) another shoe will surely drop before the beginning of the season.
Main Roster: Ian Cole (D), Vladislav Namestnikov (F), Haydn Fleury (D), Phillipe Myers (D)
System: Maxime Legace (G), Trevor Carrick (D), Grant Mismash (F)
Cole, Fleury and Myers will all be fighting for two jobs in the top 6 this up-coming training camp. It will be intriguing to see who is able to stay in the line-up long term. It is easy to slot Ian Cole in as at least the 7th defenceman. I am curious to see if Fleury can be a good partner for Hedman to work with at 5×5.
Ryan McDonagh (D), Ondrej Palat (F), Jan Rutta (D), Sammy Walker (F), Cole Guttman (RW)
Each one of these losses is huge. McDonagh and Rutta were big pieces on the back-end and we will wait and see who of the new signings can step into those shoes left to fill. The most interesting piece for me however is who will fill Palat’s old position in the top 6. Issac Howard could make the jump and potentially slide into a 2nd line role, but more likely is that he will fulfill his NCAA commitment.
Internally, a player like Nick Paul or Ross Colton could get a look there to see how they mesh. Or even Alex Barre-Boulet.
Losing Jan Rutta doesn’t seem like a big deal at first glance, but because of the minutes he spent at 5×5 with Hedman it is important to have the right partner with Hedman moving forward.
Anthony Cirelli (8 years/6,250,000), Mikhail Sergachev (8 years/8,500,000), Erik Cernak (8 years/5,200,000), Nick Paul (7 years/3,125,000), Darren Raddysh (2 year/762,500)
Nick Paul is the only one of these contracts to kick in this year, the other three extensions don’t take effect until the 2023-24 season. Nick Paul was a solid depth contributor, scoring 14 points in 21 games in the regular season. He scored some timely goals in the playoffs and amassed 9 points in 23 playoff games.
— Caleb Kerney