Lightning 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Stanley Cup Loss

Erin WalshJune 27, 2022

Lightning 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Stanley Cup Loss

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    DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 15: Nicholas Paul #20 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period in Game One of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena on June 15, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Lightning were eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.

    It was an upsetting loss for the Bolts, who were looking to become the first team to win three straight championships since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980-83.

    However, while the Bolts had a solid season overall, they didn't have the greatest roster on paper compared to years past. The team had to make some sacrifices in order to remain under the salary cap, and that meant parting ways with players like Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde.

    That said, let’s take a look at Tampa Bay’s free agents, some draft targets and what to expect moving forward.

Free Agents

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    TAMPA, FL - JUNE 7: Ondrej Palat #18 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New York Rangers during the first period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on June 7, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

    Ondrej Palat (UFA), Nicholas Paul (UFA), Jan Rutta (UFA)

    The Lightning enter the 2022-23 campaign in great shape in terms of free agents. All of their more significant players, such as Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brayden Point, are locked up at least through the 2023-24 season.

    That said, the only free agent they might consider extending is Palat, who has been a great depth forward for the franchise since the 2013-14 season. During the 2021-22 season, he finished with 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points in 77 games.

    Palat will be in for a similar contract to the one he signed before the 2017-18 season, which was worth $26.5 million over five years. He could receive more than the $5.3 million he earned per year on his last deal.

    Paul and Rutta, meanwhile, are expendable. However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to bring both players back on inexpensive deals.

2022 Draft Targets

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    BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: Luca Del Bel Belluz poses for a portrait during the 2022 NHL Scouting Combine at the KeyBank Center on June 01, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

    Like every team, the Lightning will have the opportunity to upgrade their roster via the draft, and Tampa Bay has a number of selections in the 2022 draft, including a first-round pick.

    Here's a look at the picks Tampa Bay has this summer:

    • One first-round pick
    • One fourth-round pick
    • One fifth-round pick
    • Two sixth-round picks
    • Two seventh-round picks

    Considering the Lightning have not had a first-round pick in each of the last two drafts, it will be important for the franchise to add a promising young prospect this year. The team is set in goal and, for the most part, on defense. So, let's take a look at some forwards the organization could be interested in.

    Centerman Luca Del Bel Belluz would be an interesting add for the Lightning. He spent the 2021-22 season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League, tallying 30 goals and 46 assists for 76 points in 68 games.

    NHL Central Scouting ranked Belluz as the 11th-best North American skater, and he has great agility, edgework and weaving ability that would help him thrive in an offensive-minded Lightning system.

    Isaac Howard would also be intriguing on the Bolts. The winger spent the 2021-22 season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, tallying 25 goals and 44 assists for 69 points in 52 games. He is set to play his college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season.

Free-Agent Targets

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    CALGARY, AB - MAY 15: Vladislav Namestnikov #92 of the Dallas Stars in action against the Calgary Flames during Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 15, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames defeated the Stars 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    The Lightning won't have much money to spend in free agency, but they could add some depth forwards, such as Andreas Athanasiou, Vladislav Namestnikov or Ilya Mikheyev.

    Athanasiou spent the 2021-22 season with the Los Angeles Kings and tallied 11 goals and six assists in 17 games. He hasn't had the best career by any means, but he would be a welcomed depth addition in Tampa Bay.

    Namestnikov, meanwhile, spent the first four-and-a-half seasons of his career with the Lightning, and it wouldn't be unreasonable to bring him back for the 2022-23 season. The 29-year-old tallied 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points in 74 games during the 2021-22 campaign and would be a serviceable forward for the Bolts.

    Mikheyev will be highly sought-after on the free-agent market, but there's no reason to believe the Bolts won't at least check in on his price tag. The 27-year-old has had an impressive three-year career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and finished the 2021-22 season with 21 goals and 11 assists for 32 points in 53 games. He has top-six potential and would be an intriguing target.