Dynasty Hockey League

Year In Review – Tampa Bay Lightning (Y23)

Final Record: 40-31-10-1 91 pts, 7th in the Eastern Conference, 12th overall in the DHL

Tampa Bay likely was a surprise team in the DHL this season as most GMs didn’t expect them to play as well as they did. The Lightning made the DHL playoffs for the 1st time after a 3 yr layoff, though bowing out early in losing their first round series to the Maple Leafs in 6 games. The Bolts had a veteran-laden roster that had gotten overhauled soon after GM Rich Basterd took control. It was a season that almost didn’t happen as well so clearly there was a lot that went right for Tampa.

What Went Right: Anytime you make the playoffs, you can call that something that went right. Goaltending was solid for the Bolts as both Reimer and Anderson posted very solid numbers behind a very good defense. Jonathan Huberdeau led the Lightning in points which was a bit of surprise but it helped having veteran Pavel Datsyuk on his line consistently. The team had the 4th best powerplay in the league which definitely made a difference.

What Went Wrong: After a very hot start by Tampa, they basically backed their way into the playoffs finishing 7th after being as high as 3rd. Craig “Andy” Anderson was suppose to be better and while solid, the numbers show that Reimer looked to better in his starts. The penalty kill unit was average at best finishing 14th in the league and was the 6th most penalized team in the league.

Major Trades: What started out as an offseason that looked like Tampa was going to start a rebuild, saw a quick change of plans. However, two of those trades with more of an eye towards the future will likely go down as making a huge difference in the franchise. Moving G Frederik Andersen in exchange for a Y24 1st (STL), prospect Henrik Borgstrom and veteran netminder Henrik Lundqvist would seem like the Bolts had thrown in the towel. Now it appears that the deal has worked out well for both sides as Borgstrom is a top prospect and likely only 2-3 DHL seasons away from cracking the Lightning lineup. The Blues 1st was unfortunately at the end of the 1st round after they won the Cup but was used to trade down 11 spots while picking up some cash in that deal ($6M).

The second of those big trades was to flip Lundqvist and include sniper Rick Nash in a deal landing the Montreal 1st in Y24, prospect Kale Clague, prospect J.T. Compher and goalie James Reimer. Compher and Clague are well thought of in the prospect world and Compher will likely be a top 6 player as soon as Y25 for the Bolts. The Y24 1st ended up being used on a potential future powerfoward in Jonah Gadjovich so 3 top prospects for an aging goalie and a one-dimensional forward is a solid return.

One other under the radar trade that occurred prior to the season was swapping veteran defensemen Brooks Orpik for veteran forward Daniel Sedin. Orpik was a recent UFA signing and likely was more of a luxury than a need for Tampa. Meanwhile, Sedin went on to lead the team in goals with 30 and was 2nd on the team in points. Sedin also led the team in power play goals so its easy to say this trade was a huge win.

Off-season Plans: With so many contracts expiring, it will be difficult for the Bolts to match the results from last season. The guys heading into UFA include Jumbo Joe Thornton, Daniel Sedin, Craig Anderson, Jussi Jokinen, Drew Stafford and P.E. Bellemare. In fact, after making several attempts to add good roster players for next season, the Lightning look like they will now be committing to that rebuild plan from last offseason. There were rumors of at least 2 major attempts to land former Bolt Steven Stamkos but Tampa just didn’t have the pieces necessary to make a deal work.

So with the rebuild being embraced my management, the Lightning have already moved out veteran C Brian Boyle, top pairing d-men in Matt Niskanen and Oscar Klefbom and the UFA rights to Craig Anderson and Jussi Jokinen. The returns were all obviously targeting the future with a large cash sum ($9M) coming back for Niskanen and Jokinen, cash for Anderson’s rights, and 2 top prospects (Kirill Kaprizov and Shea Theodore) for Klefbom and Tampa’s Y24 2nd. There was also the addition of the UFA rights to goalie Ben Bishop who likely will be resigned by Tampa in hopes he can rebound. It won’t be surprising if Tampa makes a few more trades with interest in the UFA rights of Thornton increasing and some mild interest in d-man Alex Edler.

It appears the Bolts will hope they can be better in a few seasons and build around star forward Jonathan Huberdeau. With amassing the future assets and building up the prospect pool thanks to the three 1st round selections in Y24, its hopefully going to be an eventual resurgence for the Lightning to strike back into the DHL playoffs. A lot has to go right but its likely a shorter rebuild than the previous Tampa management had tried to accomplish.

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