The Tampa Bay Lightning almost accomplished the impossible in the salary cap era, pushing the Colorado Avalanche to six games in the Stanley Cup Final before coming short of the three-peat as NHL champions.
To get there, the Lightning leveraged some of their depth pieces — namely, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, and Mathieu Joseph — and a bevy of picks to make trade deadline additions like Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul to help push them over the top. It’s just the price of doing business when you’re a contender: selling the future for the present.
Their system took a couple of other hits this summer, though, when a handful of their NCAA prospects went the “college loophole” route and signed elsewhere. No accounting for that.
It’s not all bad news for the Bolts system, though. They found a way to stock the cupboard with some fresh talent at this year’s draft, placing a few intriguing bets in Montréal last July.
Still, their sights remain firmly fixed on the present, with the Lightning primed to push for yet another Stanley Cup this season. Without a first- or second-round pick in 2023, they’d already pushed their chips in and the puck hasn’t even dropped on the new year of NHL hockey.
Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois found a way to replace players like Ondřej Palát and Ryan McDonagh through free agency and as a result, the team won’t likely need any reinforcements from the farm just yet.
That gives the prospects in the Lightning system more time to hone their skills and develop properly. Their pool still isn’t filled with much high-level talent or upside, but it could still churn out serviceable NHLers down the road.