5 Biggest Questions Surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning This Offseason

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIMay 8, 2013

5 Biggest Questions Surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning This Offseason

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    A disappointing 2013 season brings questions for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the early part of the offseason. With the top-two scorers in the league and no postseason, the Lightning are back to the drawing board. 

    The hopes of a playoff berth were quickly extinguished after Tampa Bay went 3-6-1 following a 6-3-0 start. After finishing 28th in the league, the Lightning have some questions for this offseason.

Who Do You Draft with the No. 3 Pick?

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    Seth Jones appears to be a lock for the No. 1 pick in this year’s entry draft. According to Central Scouting, he is the top-rated player in this year’s draft class. Behind him, the draft order is anyone’s guess. 

    Center Nathan McKinnon is the No. 2. Left wing Jonathan Drouin could be the best available for the Lightning with the No. 3 pick. 

    Al Murray, Director of Amateur Scouting for the Lightning, gave a full breakdown of the four expected choices in the draft (via Lightning.nhl.com, Peter Pupello). 

    McKinnon and Drouin fit into the Lightning system, but a player like Valeri Nichushkin could be a great addition. Murray compares him to Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin—not bad, but is he the best fit at No. 3?

What About the Salary Cap?

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    One league-wide front-office concern is the change in the salary cap for the 2013-14 season. The salary cap is set to drop from $70 million to $64 million next season. 

    Tampa Bay had $64 million in salary this season and has players like Benoit Pouliot, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Keith Aulie with expired contracts. Finding ways to free up cap space will be crucial.

How Can the Injury Woes Be Solved?

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    Every NHL team faces injuries. That is just a part of the physical, fast-paced game. Tampa Bay lost significant games from Vincent Lecavalier ($7.727 million per year), Ryan Malone ($4.5 million) and Anders Lindback. 

    The players cannot be blamed for the injuries, but durability is crucial for success in the NHL. A healthy team at the end of the season can be great momentum for the playoffs. 

    If the Bolts go for a youthful look, they owe Brett Connolly just over $1.6 million through 2014 and start the entry-level deal with Slater Koekkoek for around $1.5 million that runs through 2015-16.

Is It Time to Give Steven Stamkos the “C”?

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    Steven Stamkos is the future of the Tampa Bay franchise. The Bolts even did a TV promo for him. But Stamkos isn’t the captain of the team, that’s Vincent Lecavalier. 

    Lecavalier isn’t the player he used to be. He had 32 points in 39 games. The 33-year-old center is hasn’t hit 70 points since 2009-10. His production has steadily declined since. 

    If Stamkos is the future of the franchise, is it time to give him the “C” to wear on the sweater? Tampa Bay will have to address that question soon.

How Long Does Steve Yzerman Have Left in Tampa Bay?

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    Expectations have been sky high for Steve Yzerman as the general manager in Tampa Bay. Yzerman put together the gold-medal winning Canadian team for the 2010 Olympics Games. 

    He joined the Lightning soon after and they were one goal shy of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. In 2012, the Lightning missed the playoffs by eight points. This season, Tampa Bay finished 28th in the league.

    Former coach Guy Boucher was fired in midseason. Owner Jeff Vinik has closed his hedge fund to focus on the team. If Yzerman doesn’t put a successful product on the ice in 2013-14, he may be the next to go.