Jonathan Drouin highlighted a quiet offseason for the Lightning, but there are still options on the table.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been fairly quiet this offseason but still have a few places to turn for help in finalizing the roster. The youth movement surrounding the Bolts is reaching its pinnacle, and the roster is nearly set, but the offseason is far from complete.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said (via the Lightning website) that the roster is nearly set after signing Valtteri Filppula and that he doesn’t see the team being very active moving forward.
He mentioned that if a great opportunity is there, the Bolts could still make a move. That appears to be a long shot, but the Lightning still have places to turn to find help this offseason.
Tampa Bay's leadership is awfully familiar with the talent in the system. The rest of the NHL might find out soon.
The biggest, and best, place for the Lightning to look for help next season is their American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse. Through the draft, the Lightning have built the Crunch into a force in the AHL.
According to Hockey Prospectus, the Lightning have the No. 1 prospect system in the league. With the promotion of head coach Jon Cooper from Syracuse, there is no shortage of chemistry and consistency for the up-and-coming prospects.
It’s not a matter of if the Crunch call-ups will be successful, but a matter of when.
Ryan Malone could be on the move this offseason. If he stays healthy, he could provide quality secondary scoring.
Tampa Bay has expressed interest in moving veteran winger Ryan Malone. With the surplus of young talent in the system, the Lightning should be shopping for a physical, NHL-ready forward that can be cheaper than Malone’s $4.5 million cap hit.
Moving him will be difficult with the transition from a no-movement clause to a no-trade clause before next season. However, with the Lightning’s new defensive philosophy, finding a two-way player for cheap could be the right addition.
Injuries have plagued Malone’s last few seasons, but when healthy, he can be a 50-point guy.
Slater Koekkoek was a first-round pick two years ago. He will be one of the prospects fighting for a spot in September.
One of the most exciting times for the Lightning will be the preseason. The recently released schedule includes seven games starting on Sept. 18. While the preseason is not unique to the Lightning, a full schedule could make a huge impact given last year's situation.
This will be the best opportunity for the Lightning’s front office to see just how good the young players could be. Players like Slater Koekkoek, Jonathan Drouin and even goaltenders Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop will be fighting for ice time.
With a roster that is nearly set, the Bolts should be looking forward to the preseason as much as any team in the league.