Two years ago they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, they were one win away from a second straight trip to the Cup Finals. All indications were the Tampa Bay Lightning were on the cusp of becoming one of the NHL’s elite teams.
That’s not the case in 2016-2017. The Bolts are 29-25-8 with 66 points and lingering in sixth place in the Atlantic Division. With playoffs seemingly out of reach, Tampa Bay spent the days leading up to the March 1st trade deadline unloading some of its top players and preparing for rebuild mode.
First to go was Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay’s mainstay in goal since 2013-2014. He was sent to the Los Angeles Kings, along with a seventh round draft pick, for goalie Peter Budaj (27-20 this season), defenseman Erik Cernak, and two draft picks. Your text to link… A day later, on February 27th, veteran center Brian Boyle was shipped off to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Byron Froese, who had 24 goals and 15 assists in 48 games this season for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, and a draft pick.
Deadline day brought the third and final big trade for the Lightning as they eye their future. Valtteri Filppula, who has turned into more of an assist man than a goal scorer over the past three seasons, was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers, along with two draft picks, for defenseman Mark Streit, who was immediately sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2018 fourth round draft pick.
In losing three prominent players from its roster, the Lightning gained a quality goaltender and four draft picks, five when counting their January 27th deal with Montreal that included defenseman Jonathan Racine, and two prospects in Froese and Cernak. Should the infusion of youth work out, they’ll be added to a roster that already has solid goal scorers like Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson. Once Steven Stamkos is healed up and back on the ice, look for Tampa Bay to be back in the Stanley Cup mix.