The Tampa Bay Lightning front office now has to begin the work on next season, hoping to rebuild a team that came close to winning three Stanley Cups in a row. Anyone who watched the Final could tell that the list of injuries (on both sides) was long, and today general manager Julien BriseBois met with the media to explain some of those ailments.
Joe Smith of The Athletic relays that Brayden Point was dealing with a torn quad, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had a meniscus injury, Anthony Cirelli had an AC joint sprain and will require surgery, Brandon Hagel had a fractured foot, Corey Perry had an AC joint sprain, Nick Paul had an AC joint sprain and an MCL sprain, Nikita Kucherov had a meniscus injury, and Ryan McDonagh had a “mangled” finger.
BriseBois also spoke about some of the team’s pending free agents, noting that they hope to bring back Paul, Ondrej Palat, and Jan Rutta if possible. Whether that is possible under the salary cap remains to be seen, though the Lightning are the last team anyone should rule out for finding creative solutions.
Paul, 27, was reportedly looking for a contract with an average annual value close to $3MM when he was still with the Ottawa Senators, though that number has likely increased thanks to incredible playoff performances. The 6’3″ forward can play both center and wing, kill penalties, line up next to skilled players, or provide energy from the bottom-six. He averaged more than 18 minutes a night in the postseason, scoring five goals including two game-winners.
Palat meanwhile is a franchise icon in Tampa Bay, having played his entire career for the organization to this point. Originally selected 208th overall in 2011, he now has 423 points over 628 regular season games and is one of the most versatile two-way wingers in the NHL. He has an eye-popping 12 game-winning goals in the playoffs, and led all players with 11 even-strength goals in this year’s tournament. Now 31, there will be plenty of teams trying to bring in his experience should the Lightning be unable to retain him.