2018 Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
This is the best team in the NHL, and I am going to be very frustrated if they don't win the Stanley Cup. This isn't a new thing. I have believed in them at a high level five years now. The first year they lost in the first round after a strong regular season. The next year they lost in the Cup finals to Chicago. Then in the conference finals to Cup winner Pittsburgh. Then they somehow missed the playoffs before again losing in the conference final last year to the Cup winner. Frustrating. But this year will be different. They are a little older. They feel a little more determined. And they are very talented. This is the year.
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I have to admit to feeling a little nervous about the sudden departure of GM Steve Yzerman. He said he wants to spend more time with his family, but far more people say that than mean it. He has been masterful building this team, and you just hope that his departure isn't an indication of issues within the team that could become a problem. He handpicked his successor - his longtime assistant - and he will still be involved as an advisor this year, but I would feel a little better if he wasn't gone in the way he left.
Tampa Bay Lightning Offseason Moves
There isn't too much to report here. Usually an active team, they made just one trade since the end of last season, sending backup goalie Peter Budaj to L.A. for depth forward Andy Andreoff. It's barely a relevant deal. They tried to make a huge splash by adding Erik Karlsson, but they were unable to get it done - which is a little surprising given the pathetic return Ottawa wound up getting from San Jose for the all-World defender.
The big business was contracts, and they handed out three big ones. J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh joined the team at the trade deadline last year in a big deal with the Rangers, and now both are part of the long-term plan in Tampa. Miller signed a new five-year, $26.25 million deal. McDonagh cashed in for seven years and $47.25 million. And super star forward Nikita Kucherov is in the fold long term with an eight-year, $76 million deal. The team also locked down Louis Domingue, the backup goalie they acquired last year after trying several options, for two more years. All in all, a very successful offseason.
Free agency was as boring as things could possibly be. There wasn't even
anyone signed or lost that I am going to bother mentioning. And the team's
first draft pick was at the end of the second round, so that means nothing
in the short term, either.
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Outlook
This team is complete and ready. The forwards are deep, and the top end is scary. The defense was the best group in the league until San Jose added Karlsson. The goaltending is good and potentially very good. There aren't a lot of holes. Really, there aren't any big holes. And that means that there are no excuses. If they don't win this year, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Okay, I can't be blindly, universally positive. My biggest concern would be the back end of the defense. Three defensemen - Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi - are all 32 or older. This team plays fast, so it would be easy for older guys to start breaking down and losing half a step. It's not a huge concern given both the strength of the other, younger defensemen, and the effectiveness of these guys lately, but there has to be something.
Tampa Bay Lightning Schedule
Tampa starts with five straight at home - Florida, Vancouver, Columbus, Carolina and Detroit. The team will be solidly favored in all five games, and if they come out of the gate ready to play then they could very easily sweep the games and get off to a very strong start - as if they need the help.
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Futures Odds
Tampa Bay is the second choice to win the Stanley Cup at Bovada at +750, which sits behind only Toronto at +650. Tampa Bay had a conference best 113 points last year. The season point total is set at a smaller but still ambitious 107.5. Kucherov is at +1500 to win the Hart Trophy as MVP, with Stamkos close behind at +2000.
2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions
I don't get why Toronto is favored over this team. This team has more experience winning and much better defensive talent. I am obviously very bullish on the squad and would lean to the "over" on the season point total. If not now, then perhaps never.
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