In anticipation of the 2021-22 season, NHL.com explores the state of affairs at each club in the league in the traditional 32-over-32 series. In this episode, we reflect on how painful it will be for the reigning champions at Tampa to be parting with a large group of players in the summer, including all the third link.
What goals can a team that has won two Stanley Cups in a row set itself? The question is rhetorical, everything is clear and so. In 2020 and 2021, the Lightning staked out the right to be named one of the best teams in history. In addition to them, in the era of the salary ceiling, only “Pittsburgh” won twice in a row. The last trip to the NHL was given to the Islanders almost 40 years ago, winning four times (1980-83) – in an era when the trees were big and there were only 21 clubs competing in the league. Those great “Islanders” are still considered the last full-fledged hockey dynasty to this day.
Video: Tampa’s best moments in winning Stanley Cup final
Now Tampa has a chance to stand on a par with them, and given the frozen salary ceiling and significantly increased competition – perhaps even a notch higher. But winning the third Cup in a row will probably be more difficult for them than either of the two previous ones. Back on July 7, having celebrated their second trophy on the Amalie Arena ice, the Lightning players said: they say, we understand that all together in such a squad were on the ice for the last time. Even then, it was clear that it would be absolutely unrealistic to keep all these champions for the third champion attempt.
The management of “Lightning” did not even try, realizing all the futility. As many as seven of the 2021 championship roster left the team, five of whom had consistent and well-defined roles. The third link of the attack fell apart completely: the favorite of the Florida public, Yanni Gurda, chose Seattle in the expansion draft, and his partners Barkley Goodrow and Blake Coleman ended contracts at the same time, about the extension of which, pinned to the ceiling, “Tampa” could not even dream. Goodrow eventually signed a hefty six-year deal with the Rangers for $ 21.85 million, and Coleman landed even better at Calgary (six years, $ 29.4 million).
This three could be called the best third link in the NHL without a stretch, and its loss, of course, will be extremely painful for the Lightning. The appearance of these guys on the starting shifts of all periods has long become an established tradition in John Cooper’s team. They fought at the boards, exhausted the stars of rivals, charged partners with energy, played brilliantly in the minority. Coleman’s fantastic puck in the fall into the gate of Carey Price in the last second of the second period in the final match # 2 was one of the highlights of the playoffs. And the whole club history of “Lightning”, perhaps.
Video: Nikita Kucherov’s 10 best moments in the playoffs-2021
Had “Tampa” to part with striker Tyler Johnson, who played for the club all nine years of his career. In recent years, his role has been somewhat limited, but in 2015 he almost single-handedly dragged the Lightning to the finals, becoming the best sniper and playoff scorer. The 30-year-old striker and his three remaining years of a $ 5 million contract for the season are sheltered by Chicago. Gone and the defender David Savard, who signed a four-year contract with Montreal, and defender Luc Shann, who went to Vancouver for two years, and Andrei Vasilevsky’s backup, goalkeeper Curtis McElinney, who remains an unrestricted free agent so far.
But in all these positions, and “Lightning” must have someone to play! And absolutely not for the money that the departed hockey players objectively cost and deserved.
[Смотри также: 32 за 32: анализ “Тампа-Бэй Лайтнинг”]
And here the general manager Julien Brisbois worked absolutely brilliantly. It turns out that winning two Cups in a row does wonders for the willingness of top-notch veterans to play for your team for very little money. 36 year old forwards Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellmar signed identical two-year contracts, 31-year-old defender Zak Bogosyanwho won the 2020 Stanley Cup with Tampa is back for three years and the 36-year-old goalkeeper Brian Elliott concluded a contract for a year. So look: having enlisted the services of four well-known and still very solid hockey players, Brisbois managed to spend a little more than $ 3 million on everyone! Gourde, of course, is fine, but he alone will earn $ 2 million more at Seattle in the coming season than all the newcomers to Lightning combined.
Can it be argued that thanks to these humble and angry purchases, the Lightning retained its former strength? Hardly. But it is rather difficult to imagine how the club’s management could perform better on the market than it did, given the extremely constrained financial resources.
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In the person of Elliott, they, perhaps, even strengthened the position of the reserve goalkeeper. How much will be required of him, if last season McElinney appeared on the ice in only 12 regular season games, and in the playoffs – never at all? Elliott will probably play more – especially given the 82-match championship and Vasilevsky’s almost guaranteed participation in the Olympics.
Completely replacing the excellent third link that Tampa previously had was an almost impossible task and with a lot of money: the players needed for this were simply not on the market. But the club did not set such a task. Now, if, for example, the most experienced Perry with the young Ross Colton and Alex Barre-Buhle are in it, and the three of them can not become the most vulnerable point of this team, their short-term mission can be considered completed.
A more serious threat to the prospects of the “tripit” is the burden that will fall on the shoulders of the leaders. After all, “Lightning” will have the shortest vacation in the league, and ahead – a full-fledged championship, and even with the Olympics, to which the champions will no doubt have to delegate a large group of stars. At least seven: Vasilevsky, Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev, Victor Hedman, Braden Point, Steven Stamkos and Ondřej The Chamber will surely be summoned there.