Tampa Bay Lightning face threepeat challenge amid off-season turnover

The Tampa Bay Lightning secured their second Stanley Cup triumph on the bounce by easing past the Montreal Canadiens by a 4-1 scoreline in the Finals. Jon Cooper’s men were nothing short of sensational to see off the Canadiens, storming into a 3-0 series lead before fending off a brief hope of a comeback to claim the crown in game five.

The team now have the chance to become the first outfit to win three Stanley Cups in a row since the New York Islanders won four chamnpionships on the bounce between 1980 and 1983. Cooper has established a formidable record, and although his team were not outstanding during the regular season, they were ready for the challenge of the post-season.

As a result, of their clutch performances in the playoffs, the Lightning are backed at 11/2 in the NHL betting odds to win the Stanley Cup for a third season in a row. With a full roster intact, few would bet against Tampa Bay from making another surge towards the crown. However, keeping their squad together will be an issue due to the salary cap. The Lightning will enter the 2021/22 season over the projected cap as it stands, and will need to alleviate the strain on their payroll during the off-season to meet the requirements.

David Savard, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow will be available on the free-agent market, but could be tied down if the Lightning are able to agree team-friendly deals with the experienced trio. Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn are among the players that will be available in the expansion draft with the addition of Seattle Kraken into the NHL next term. Tampa Bay are allowed to protect a portion of their talent. Palat, Gourde and Killorn might have to be sacrificed to retain other key men on the roster. All three played significant roles in the Stanley Cup triumph, but they are at the stage of their respective careers where they may have peaked on the ice.

Despite their financial concerns, the Lightning will still have Andriy Vasilevskiy locked down for the long term. The goaltender won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his exploits in the Stanley Cup Finals, excelling between the sticks. He became only the fifth goalie to keep a shutout in a series-clinching win in the Finals. At the age of 26, he will only improve with further time in the net, and is a player that the Lightning need to retain to keep themselves in the running for titles year in, year out.

The core around Vasilevskiy must also be retained as Nikolai Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos have embodied both the quality and the spirit of the team over the last two years. General manager Julien BriseBois has a vital task ahead of him to fend off interest in both his star men now and his future talent developing in the ranks. Should he achieve that over the course of the off-season, Cooper and his team will be well placed for another run without comprising their ability to challenge further down the line.

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