Is the Tampa Bay Lightning dynasty dream lifeless? Not so quick

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I do know it’s arduous to really feel unhealthy for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a company, they got here near successful three straight Stanley Cups. They’ve a terrific enviornment, one of many league’s greatest house owners and a comparatively good probability of conserving most of their group collectively this offseason. As people, most of them have two rings, none pays state revenue taxes they usually can go to the rink in flip flops many of the 12 months. Yup, you received’t hear too many violins enjoying or discover too many individuals crying in regards to the Bolts’ loss to the Colorado Avalanche within the Stanley Cup Closing.  

Why is it, then, that I really feel a twinge of sorrow for the Lightning? 

For starters, they confirmed an effort and resolve in defeat that was extremely valiant. Possibly it was the understated and humble ardour from their leaders, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, or their head coach, Jon Cooper, that received me over. Or perhaps it was simply their willingness to launch their our bodies in entrance of pucks time and time once more. They have been higher and extra resilient champions than anybody had given them credit score for, and but, improbably, they felt like large underdogs.

Sadly, the Lightning didn’t get to play the Avalanche on a wonderfully equal footing of well being. The Avs have been so dominant this 12 months that it’s attainable even a totally wholesome Lightning group would nonetheless have been steamrolled, however it will have been good to see Tampa at its greatest. Not solely did the Lightning badly miss one among their greatest gamers, Brayden Level, for many of the playoffs, Tampa additionally had a lot of gamers who have been clearly hobbled by the ultimate days of the gruelling playoff event. The willpower confirmed by visibly injured gamers like Anthony Cirelli, Brandon Hagel, Nick Paul and Nikita Kucherov was nothing wanting inspiring. Irrespective of how injured they have been, they continued to grind out shifts and video games, their will to win overpowering their want for well being. I discovered myself rooting for these guys with every grimace from a slapshot that they have been keen to take off an unpadded a part of their legs.

Other than admiring their will and braveness, it additionally occurred to me that perhaps the Lightning deserved to win a Cup that wasn’t imprinted with the stain of the pandemic. The Lightning’s first Cup was received in an empty enviornment in Edmonton through the bubble event, and their second was performed in opposition to an Jap Division foe that emerged from a pandemic-driven Canadian division which permitted solely a smattering of followers to be in attendance throughout Tampa’s highway video games. It’s not that there’s any asterisk hooked up to the Lightning’s Cup wins — in truth, it might have been tougher to win these Cups than in a standard 12 months, nevertheless it simply appears that among the shine on their accomplishments was diminished by the odd circumstances.

Additional, whereas I perceive the will for parity within the NHL, I don’t thoughts a dynasty one bit. I grew up in a golden age of dynasties — groups just like the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, and extra not too long ago, the New England Patriots and Golden State Warriors. There’s something particular a few group that dominates, that expects to play for the championship yearly, and that every one different groups must dethrone. It makes for heroes, villains and the very best drama. Had the Lightning captured a 3rd championship, I believe we might have began utilizing the D phrase, however not now. On the very least, that distinction is on pause.

Some folks hate that the Lightning’s Cup win in 2021 included their artistic use of the league’s LTIR wage cap provisions to successfully area a Cup-winning roster that will have been $18 million over the regular-season wage cap. I can perceive the standpoint of these haters, however I may respect that the Lightning had each the wits, and the stones, to work the system to perfection.

I suppose I’m a Lightning apologist and a Lightning sympathizer. So what can we Lightning sympathizers anticipate going ahead? Nicely, regardless that I’ve already gone out on a limb and picked the New York Rangers to win the Cup next year, I can very simply envision a state of affairs the place the Lightning return to the dance subsequent 12 months to reclaim their title.

The sting of this 12 months’s defeat will inspire them to regroup. There may be a lot expertise, character and can in that dressing room that it will be foolish to wager in opposition to them. The Lightning have most of their roster signed via subsequent season, with three exceptions: playoff juggernaut Ondrej Palat, latest acquisition Nick Paul and regular veteran blueliner Jan Rutta. They’d be over the cap if the brand new season began right now, however Brent Seabrook, not retired on paper however accomplished in relation to his enjoying days, provides them some LTIR flexibility and it will not be shocking within the least to see one of many Lightning’s present strolling wounded find yourself on a rehab timetable that retains him on LTIR to start out the season, giving the Bolts some extra flexibility. Nonetheless, conserving Palat and Paul would require extra {dollars} than they are going to have obtainable, so somebody will have to be sacrificed.

I’m guessing all arrows level to 32 year-old Alex Killorn. He’s nonetheless a really efficient and dependable participant, regardless that his playoff level manufacturing would counsel in any other case. His zero objectives and 4 assists in 23 postseason video games was not what anybody anticipated from the 25-goal regular-season performer. He nonetheless performed huge minutes for the Bolts however appeared snake-bitten across the web. Killorn carries a cap hit of $4.45 million for yet another 12 months, a contract that will probably be a lot simpler to maneuver than say, Ryan McDonagh’s 4 extra years at $6.75 million. I believe the Lightning will prioritize the extra productive playoff performer Palat, and the youthful Paul, over Killorn if push involves shove. Killorn’s contract wouldn’t be an obstacle for groups across the league wanting so as to add a strong top-nine ahead for his or her playoff push subsequent season. With the tax benefits, linemates and alternative to win once more that Palat and Paul have, I believe they are going to acknowledge how good they’ve it and keep in Tampa for fairly discounted costs that match the Bolts’ cap construction.

No matter how the Lightning strategy the offseason, you’ll be able to assume they are going to have two of Palat, Paul and Killorn again within the fold. And with these items in place and a wholesome Level, it’s virtually a on condition that Tampa will probably be within the hunt once more subsequent 12 months. If any of their prospects can emerge — perhaps that is lastly the 12 months Alex Barre-Boulet makes a profitable transition to the NHL — they are going to solely be that rather more harmful.

Across the league, I believe lots of people see the Avalanche Cup victory as the top of the road for the Lightning, however I don’t assume they’re accomplished simply but. There could also be very properly be one other championship in retailer for the Lightning, and I received’t be unhappy to see it occur.

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