The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Current State

As the Tampa Bay Lightning gets into the new year, they finally get a full lineup for the first time since the second game of the season against the Detroit Red Wings. As of today, they are tied for first in the NHL with 51 points. They are tied with their division rival, the Florida Panthers, which has two games in hand over the Lightning. As of right now, their record stands as 23-9-5. The Lightning has had a hard time keeping players in the lineup. They have played most of the season without superstar players in the lineup, including Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, and they have had huge success. Without Nikita Kucherov in the lineup, the Lightning went 10-5-4. Without both Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point in the lineup, they went 11-2-1, which is unbelievable. During that long stretch, the team was led by both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in their respective positions. Steven Stamkos is currently sixth in the league with 41 points, and Victor Hedman leads the league in points by defencemen with 36 points. Also, they had good production from players like Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat while both superstars were out for a majority of the season. Alex Killorn has 31 points, and Ondrej Palat has 29 points. They are both in the top 50 in points in the league.

By finally having a full lineup, the Lightning organization is able to analyze closely what the team is made of and what pieces they might need to acquire at the trade deadline in order to go for the three-peat. Their current record gives the organization hope of winning for another year and reaching dynasty pedigree for the first time in their team’s history. All that to say, with the forward depth stepping up while many offensive players were out during the year, the Lightning currently have Ross Colton as their 13th forward. Ross Colton had the Stanley Cup clinching goal last spring to win their second cup in two years. The Lightning are feeling good about themselves having Ross Colton as their spare player at the moment. Also, they have players like Alex Barré-Boulet, Gabriel Fortier, Remi Elie, and Gemel Smith as their depth players after Ross Colton. Each player saw the ice for the Lightning this season, and had shown good sign of being able to play on Tampa Bay’s fourth line. Both Ross Colton and Alex Barré-Boulet could be a good replacement on Tampa Bay’s top-six forward group if any other top six players from the team get injured again. Both players have good skill and a similar style to players playing in a top-six role.

Furthermore, on defence, Erik Cernak missed most of the season with a foot injury while blocking a shot during a game. While he was out, the Lightning depth defencemen had to come in the lineup. The Lightning’s weakness would be their depth at defence. It was also their primary target for both of their previous championship runs. During the 2020 cup run, they acquired players like Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn. During their 2021 cup run, they acquired David Savard. For this year’s playoff, the Tampa Bay Lightning would have Fredrik Claesson as their fourth left defencemen, Andrej Sustr, and inexperienced Cal Foote as their depth right defencemen. I believe that the Lightning could get away with the right side if they would have to deal with any injury, but the left side would result in a major drop if Fredrik Claesson would have to draw in the lineup for a playoff game. It is still early to know which players are available from each struggling team, but a player that has been mentioned a lot lately is Montreal Canadiens’ defencemen Ben Chiarot. Ben Chiarot is a left shot shut-down defenceman that would be a great depth player for the Lightning. He is on a cheap contract, where Montreal would be willing to eat some of Chiarot’s salary on top of it, and I believe it would be a great addition to the Lightning’s team. Moreover, it would give a breather for Victor Hedman on some occasions because he plays haft of the game night after night. If Victor Hedman wants a night off at the end of the season, Ben Chiarot would be a reliable defenceman for the Lightning. All this to say, Chiarot is one potential target for the Lightning, but as the season goes down, more players from struggling teams will be available to acquire. The Lightning does not have a lot of cap space and would have to be creative in order to complete a transaction at the trade deadline in late March.

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