With the Stanley Cup final finished, the hockey world turns to the offseason, and the betting world turns to early odds for next season’s championship contenders. On June 12, 2019, NBCSN reported that the Tampa Bay Lightning were the early favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup with odds going at 6-to-1.
Yes, even with the way the Lightning flopped out of the playoffs this year, the team is the favorite to win the Cup. Despite a four-game spanking by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team still had a beyond exceptional regular season and should still have a ridiculously talented roster skating for them in the 2019-2020 season.
Before the Lightning even gets to the next season, they need to focus on the contract status of some of their players. Centers Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point along with wingers Adam Erne and Danick Martel are restricted free agents, while defensemen Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi are all unrestricted free agents.
Brayden Point is the big fish here. Thankfully he is restricted, meaning any team that wants to sign him away must forfeit draft picks to the Lightning in addition to the large contract that it would take to sign him. Generally, teams are unwilling to do so in the NHL which leaves the Lightning at an advantage in getting him back. However, some team might be desperate enough, considering Point’s 92 point season last year.
The trick is to get Point to sign a cap friendly deal that hopefully is long term. That is not necessarily for next year, but if the Lightning can keep as much cap space as possible open for the 2020 offseason that would be excellent.
It really feels like the 2019-2020 season might be the Lightning’s last shot at the cup for a little while. After next season, the team will have to find the money to give new contracts to a number of young, key players. Forwards Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph, defensemen Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy are all going to be restricted free agents next year, and it might take more money than the Lightning’s cap space will allow keeping them all. Outside of Vasilevskiy, the Lightning will be able to weather losing a couple of these players, but it will still diminish the team’s long term potential.
Overall, don’t expect to see many flashy offseason moves by the Lightning. Truly, steady as she goes is the best course of action for the team and the best chance on making those 6-1 odds stick.