The 2015-2016 Tampa Bay Lightning lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Their performance followed up a Finals appearance last year where they lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Lightning’s record implies that no drastic moves are necessary, but with star forward Steven Stamkos still unsigned, the team risks losing arguably their best player to free agency.
Cap Space: $18,849,999 (according to CapFriendly)
Key UFAs: F Steven Stamkos. Stamkos is coming off a 36G and 64P season but missed all but one playoff game due to blood clots. While he hasn’t posted more than a point-per-game since 2013-2014, Stamkos remains one of the most dominant young forwards in the game. That being said, the Lightning were within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals without him, so they could seemingly let him walk without suffering much setback.
Key RFAs: F Alex Killorn and F Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov scored 30G and 66P this year while adding another 19P in the playoffs. He is set for a significant raise after finishing off his entry level contract. Killorn potted 14G and 40P in the regular season before posting 13P in the playoffs. He is coming off of a deal worth $2.55MM AAV and is also looking for a raise. The Lightning will have to decide whether to offer both players bridge contracts or lock them into long-term deals. They will also have to be wary of next year’s RFAs Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Andrei Vasilevskiy seeking significant raises.