3 Moments in the Weirdly Dull Lightning & Hurricanes Rivalry

When you look back at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s nearly 30-year NHL history, three franchises stand out as their most played opponents. First on the list is their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, whom they have taken the ice against 146 times in the regular season. Third is the Washington Capitals, an opponent that has largely had the Lightning’s number, as they have only mustered a 43-76-6-9 regular-season record against them.

If you ask Lightning fans about both of these franchises, you will receive, at the very least, an opinion about them. Sure, they don’t have the deepest history with either, but there will be some stories of memorable games, players that you both love to see on the ice and hate playing against, a few meaningful trades, and even an important playoff series or two that helped define parts of Tampa Bay’s history.

Related: Revisiting the Dan Boyle Trade That’s Still Impacting the Lightning

Then you look at the Carolina Hurricanes, whom the Lightning have played 135 times in the regular season, battled against in the same division for the better part of 15 years, and yet have almost no meaningful history with either on or off the ice. Sure, they have played some great games against each other, but with their first postseason meeting coming in Round 2 of the 2021 playoffs, it’s hard to draw too much excitement from this match-up.

Despite this, there are still a few small yet historic moments that took place for the Lightning with the Hurricanes over the years, even if they aren’t necessarily enough to write an entire article about on their own.

Lightning Get Dingman From Carolina

In order to win a Stanley Cup, you need more than just elite offensive talent. Tough, gritty players that can chip in with timely physical play can have a lot of value to a franchise as they push for a deep playoff run.

For the Lightning in the early 2000s, one of those players was Chris Dingman, who joined the franchise in a trade with the Hurricanes on Mar. 5, 2002. In this deal, Tampa Bay acquired Dingman and Shane Willis for journeyman goaltender Kevin Weekes, who would go on to make almost 120 starts for Carolina.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2020 Stanley Cup
As the Tampa Bay Lightning showed again in 2020, it takes a few gritty forwards to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While Willis had little impact on the team, playing just 33 games over two seasons, Dingman started 173 games in a bottom-six role for the franchise over the course of four seasons. In the postseason, he earned 36 starts, including 23 in Tampa Bay’s run to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

After he finished his hockey career, he even returned to the franchise as a commentator, further cementing his place in Lightning lore. So, even if Dingman didn’t score a lot, this was still a small but meaningful trade in Tampa Bay’s history.

Bishop Stars Against Hurricanes in Lightning Debut

Whenever a big trade is made, there is always a rush to judge it as soon as it happens. Back at the 2013 deadline, when then-general manager Steve Yzerman shipped breakout rookie Cory Conacher and a 4th-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Ben Bishop, many saw the move as an immediate loss for Tampa Bay. After all, the Lightning gave up one of their brightest young players and a pick for what amounted to a backup goaltender that had been recently acquired for a second-round pick by the Senators.

All it took was one game for Bishop to silence any doubters in Tampa Bay. In his first Lightning start, which was against the Hurricanes, the 6-foot-7 goalie put on an absolute show, making 45 saves in a 5-0 shutout performance. While Carolina was a team on the ropes at the time, this was still an incredible first impression for a goaltender to make.

Ben Bishop
While the trade received mixed reactions when it happened, Ben Bishop established himself as one of the Lightning’s top goalies in their history. (courtesy http://www.daveart.com/)

As time passed, it became clear that this performance wasn’t just a one-off. Bishop would go on to be nominated for the Vezina Trophy two times in his Lightning career, while helping to carry the young, rebuilding team all the way to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. He was, at the time, Tampa Bay’s best regular-season goalie ever, and would only be surprassed by his protege Andrei Vasilevksiy.

Hurricanes Acquire Jussi Jokinen From Tampa Bay

While the Lightning found themselves on the positive end of the Dingman trade, there was another relatively small deal with the Hurricanes that they definitively lost. Back in 2009, Tampa Bay sent Jussi Jokinen to Carolina for Josef Melichar, Wade Brookbank, and a fourth-round pick.

When Tampa Bay acquired Jokinen in a blockbuster deal with the Dallas Stars that involved Brad Richards, the hope was that he would be a decent 15 to 20 goal scorer for the franchise. Instead, he posted just eight goals in 46 games, was waived, and eventually dealt to the Hurricanes at the trade deadline.

In Carolina, Jokinen regained his goalscoring touch, posting 30 goals in 2009-10 alone while going on to play in 288 games over five seasons for the franchise. During this stretch of time, he was a reliable depth player, scoring between 12 to 20 goals a season.

Did Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis make a mistake by deciding not to claim Jussi Jokinen off waivers? (Photo: Andy Martin Jr)
Jussi Jokinen had a successful career with the Carolina Hurricanes, acting as a solid depth forward for the franchise. During the 2009 playoffs, he even scored the latest regulation game-winning goal at the time, with just 0.2 seconds remaining in the third period. (Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

For the Lightning, they got essentially nothing out of this move. Melichar played 24 games with the franchise, scoring just five points. Both Brookbank and the fourth-round pick, which was traded for Richard Petiot, never played for Tampa Bay.

Lightning Lacking a Real Rivalry With the Hurricanes

It is fascinating how two teams that played each other so much over the years have no real history. This is due in large part to the fact that both franchises have been good at different times until recently, meaning that they were rarely playing meaningful games against each other.

Related: Lightning’s Vasilevskiy Continues Vezina-Worthy Play in Game 2

However, with a playoff series taking place in 2021 and two strong core rosters, the Lightning and Hurricanes may be on their way to building that rivalry in the coming years as they face off in the postseason.