2019 Tampa Bay Lightning Odds to win Stanley Cup with Expert Predictions
I have been watching sports for four decades. And in that time, I am not sure that anything has surprised me more than departure of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs - in four games, no less. The squad seemed to have no faults last year, and they won 62 regular-season games, which tied for the most ever in a single season. I picked them to win the Stanley Cup without a moment of hesitation, and I was far from alone in that. It almost felt inevitable - no team was on their level.
But then they lost to Columbus in their opener. Then they lost again. And two more times. And while the Blue Jackets had some nice enough pieces, they barely squeaked into the playoffs, their two best players both already had their feet out the door in free agency, and they didn't even belong on the same ice as Tampa Bay. It was a result that was totally inexplicable at the time, and it has only become more bizarre with time. The team responded with anger and increased focus, and they had an offseason that set them up for another strong season. But what, if any, lingering mental effect will there be from the premature end?
Tampa Bay Lightning Offseason Moves
The biggest point of business the team had to deal with was a new deal for
Brayden Point, one of the best restricted free agents in a ridiculously
deep class for them this year. Locking him up was never a question, as he
has already emerged as one of the better offensive players in the league.
Things dragged well into September. However, in the end, he signed a
three-year bridge deal that works very well for a team that has done a
remarkable job of getting their stars signed to team-friendly deals. Not
having any state tax certainly helps them on that front, and so does
letting people be part of something as special as this collection of
players is. As it turned out, missing much of training camp wasn't a factor
for Point despite the holdout. It was revealed after he signed that he had
hip surgery this summer and would be out until late in October anyway.
You can't keep adding contracts forever without consequences in a hard cap league, so the team had to shed contracts to be able to absorb Point. Leading the way on that front was the departure of J.T. Miller. The team absolutely robbed the Canucks in that deal, getting a first- and third-round pick, and a European goalie prospect, in exchange for a guy who no longer fit into Tampa's plans. It's deals like that that keep the team at the top. They also dealt young depth winger Adam Erne to Detroit instead of re-signing him, and dealt the contract of Ryan Callahan, who is on long-term injury, to Ottawa because they had the capacity to absorb it. As usual, the team did a very good job of moving pieces around while staying ahead.
Short of big money, the team went bargain shopping to fill out the roster. They brought in guys like Pat Maroon, Luke Schenn, and Chris Mueller, who come cheap and might be hungry enough, and appreciative enough, to be useful. And they added Kevin Shattenkirk, who was bought out by the Rangers just two years into a big money four-year deal, to fill out their defensive corps. None of those moves really shake the foundations by themselves, but it is little deals like that that can make all the difference in the playoffs.
In net, they took care of the long term, signing the stellar Andrei Vasilevskiy to a new eight-year deal, and adding Curtis McIlhenney and Mike Condon to compete for the backup job along with last year's backup Louis Domingue.
Drafting as late as they always do in the draft, the Lightning don't expect immediate impact. They picked a bit of a project late in the first round in winger Nolan Foote, the son of long-time NHL defenseman Adam Foote. He's a big kid and his upside is interesting, but it will take time.
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Outlook
It's hard to find any faults with this team. Their offense is deep and incredibly dangerous. Their defense is ridiculously strong, and the top end is as good as any in the league. There isn't a goalie in the league that would be an upgrade from what they have. And they are very well coached. This is the best, most complete, team in the league, and it's not even close. But that was also true last year and the year before, and they don't have anything to show for it.
Tampa Bay Lightning Schedule
The team opens at home against Florida but then launches right into a season-long six game road trip. All six games are against Eastern Conference foes, and five of them are true playoff contenders. It's an interesting start to things, and we'll really get a sense of where the mindset of this team is at right out of the gate.
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Futures Odds
Tampa Bay is favored at everything there is to be favored at - they are at +700 to win the Stanley Cup, +400 to win the conference, and +125 to win the very top-heavy Atlantic Division. Their point total is set at 108.5, with neither side getting enough action to move things significantly yet. They are at -450 to make the playoffs and a very unattractive +360 to miss them.
2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions
I was all in on this team last year, and that hasn't changed. They are just plain better than the rest, and the experience of having things go so, so wrong last year should be helpful for them this year. They are my preseason Stanley Cup pick - for the third straight year.
Get $60 worth of member's NHL picks absolutely free - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please on any of our top hockey handicappers. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free ! Also, for a limited time get three hockey handicappers for the price of one! Click here for our 3-for-1 NHL picks offer . Also, get free NHL picks every day on Doc's Sports NHL predictions page.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of Tonight's Free NHL Picks.
Get all of Tonight's Expert Expert NHL Picks.