Revisiting Departed Lightning Players From 2020-21 Team

It was another celebratory offseason for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they won their second-straight Stanley Cup championship in 2020-21. They had skill they could consistently roll with every line change as well as a brick wall in net behind them in goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. While it was mission accomplished once again for the organization, it was another offseason where general manager (GM) Julien BriseBois and his managerial group would have to make tough decisions and lose some more great talent. The Lightning were very close to the salary cap ceiling; in fact, they were criticized by fans around the NHL on the whole cap situation involving their star Nikita Kucherov once he came back from season-long injured reserve (IR) to be a force in the postseason (the team was then $18 million over the cap, so fans believed there was cap circumvention there with the team).

As a result of Tampa’s tight cap space, they said goodbye to Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Johnson, Mitchell Stephens, David Savard, and Luke Schenn in the offseason. Now that the 2021-22 campaign is well underway, it is interesting to see how the former players are currently doing in their new destinations around the league.

Yanni Gourde and the Seattle Kraken

Gourde was one of the toughest players to lose in the offseason. While others were traded or signed elsewhere in free agency, Gourde’s departure from Tampa was different in that he was selected by the new franchise Seattle Kraken in their expansion draft. He was another example of a talent that former GM Steve Yzerman saw the potential after Gourde went undrafted and was spending time in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the ECHL. He was brought into the fold for the Bolts and blossomed into a solid player from the time he was in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch to the NHL regular he became.

Yanni Gourde, Seattle Kraken
Yanni Gourde, shown here with the Seattle Kraken, became the solid player he is today, growing his game with the Syracuse Crunch and Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

During his time with the Lightning, he posted the following numbers in the regular season:

  • 2015-16: one assist in two games
  • 2016-17: six goals and two assists for eight points in 20 games
  • 2017-18: 25 goals and 39 assists for 64 points in 82 games
  • 2018-19: 22 goals and 26 assists for 48 points in 80 games
  • 2019-20: 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 70 games
  • 2020-21: 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points in 56 games

Along with those stats, Gourde was a significant contributor for the Bolts winning their 2020 and 2021 Cups. He posted 14 points in 25 contests for the 2020 postseason (seven goals and seven assists), while he tallied seven points in 23 games for the 2021 playoffs (six goals and an assist).

Gourde was drafted from Tampa by the Kraken in their expansion draft and has played in 11 games so far for the club. In those games, he racked up three goals and four assists for seven points. He is one of the faces of the franchise for Seattle, along with Brandon Tanev, Jordan Eberle (who posted the first hat-trick in Kraken history), and Philipp Grubauer in net. While many other great names are still with the Lightning, Gourde is missed for what he brought to the rink every night. He is a perfect talent to help advertise the Kraken brand for new hockey fans in that area, and his championship experience will go a long way for that locker room. His future and the future of the Kraken franchise both look very bright.

Blake Coleman and the Calgary Flames

One of the biggest pieces to the roster BriseBois has brought in over his tenure as GM so far was trading for Coleman from the New Jersey Devils back in 2020. He developed into a speedy forward with good hands on the puck with the Devils, but the organization moved in a different direction from him and BriseBois took advantage.

Coleman’s time in Tampa saw two Cups as well as a few highlight-reel goals, including one in Game 2 of the 2021 Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens in the dying seconds of the second period to break a 1-1 tie.

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In his regular-season Bolts stint, Coleman had a combined 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 64 matchups between 2019-20 and 2020-21. In the 2020 and 2021 playoffs, he continued to be a complementary player on the offense. He notched the following stats during those Cup runs:

  • 2020 playoffs: five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 25 games
  • 2021 playoffs: three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 23 games

Based on his time with the club, as great as Coleman was, it was apparent that the Lightning was not going to be able to keep him around. In fact, the entire line he was on for Tampa during critical moments for the team (Gourde being one of the other two players) ended up leaving one way or another during the 2021 offseason. In Coleman’s case, he went into free agency in the summer and signed a six-year contract by the Calgary Flames. He is another weapon added to a Flames roster with powerful names like Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Andrew Mangiapane.

So far in 13 games with Calgary, he has five points (three goals and two assists). I think his point production will increase more throughout the season. He has all the tools to be lethal on the ice every game for any team he could ever play on. He will be someone special on the Flames for many seasons to come. He was one of the toughest players that BriseBois had to let go, but he helped Tampa go all the way twice, and he can try and help bring Calgary to that level themselves.

Mitchell Stephens and the Detroit Red Wings

A young player who had a potential depth role with the Lightning organization who switched teams over the summer was forward Mitchell Stephens. The 24-year-old was drafted by Tampa in the second round (33rd overall) in 2015. He made his NHL debut back in the 2019-20 campaign, where he put up three goals and three assists for six points in 38 matches. His second season in 2020-21 only saw him play in seven regular-season games, where he tallied one assist. For the postseason, he played in seven games for the 2020 Cup run, getting a goal. He did not suit up for any playoff games on that 2021 Cup run.

Mitchell Stephens Tampa Bay Lightning
Mitchell Stephens made his debut for the Lightning during the 2019-20 NHL season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

One business relationship BriseBois has is with the Red Wings. Of course, the biggest reason for that is their current GM is Yzerman, who is helping shape that organization up and hopes the same success Tampa gained will follow them down the road as well. Stephens was someone Yzerman was interested in bringing in, and as a result, a deal was made between the Red Wings and Bolts. Stephens went to Detroit for a sixth-round selection in 2022. As this article is being written, this season, Stephens has suited up in 16 games for the Red Wings. He has four points in that span, all of them helpers.

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At the end of the day, I think it was a matter of room for Stephens in Tampa’s lineup. Stephens was an odd man out between the talent still there from previous Cup victories mixed with new players added in the offseason and others earning spots. His trade to Detroit gives him a spot to gain NHL experience that he might have gotten a lot less from had he stayed with the Lightning. He can grow together with the rest of Detroit’s younger talent, such as Lucas Raymond, who has accomplished a lot this season, such as getting his first career hat-trick, and defenseman Moritz Seider, who scored his first NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres in overtime. Stephens won’t be in a top-six role for them, but he can potentially be a nice depth forward for the squad that plays a key part in the bottom-six. We will continue to see how his development plays out going forward.

Tyler Johnson and the Chicago Blackhawks

31-year-old forward Tyler Johnson was a part of one of the best lines in Lightning history when he, along with Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, made up the Triplets Line. They were a dominant trio who could hold their own while other talents like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman did what they had to do as well.

After many great seasons with Tampa, it became apparent that Johnson’s days with the organization were winding down. The team put him on waivers back during the 2020 offseason, where he went unclaimed. His contract was one that BriseBois wanted to get off the books. Despite their attempts to move on from him, he remained with the team and was a part of their Cup repeat in 2021. He scored eight goals during the 2020-21 regular season and provided 14 assists for 22 points in 55 contests. In the following playoff run, he chalked up four goals and three assists for seven points in 23 games.

Tyler Johnson, Chicago Blackhawks
Tyler Johnson was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks during the offseason. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Johnson was dealt to the Blackhawks back in late July along with a 2023 second-round pick for defenseman Brent Seabrook’s contract. He has played in eight matchups with Chicago, accruing one goal and two assists for three points. He certainly has a lot of skill around him on the roster with teammates like Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews, and Seth Jones, to name some of them. He might be getting older, but he still can play an important veteran role not just for the locker room off-the-ice but on it as well. This is especially the case for the younger talent who are making their way up to the Blackhawks either from the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL or elsewhere. He has won two Cups and has a ton of seasons under his belt. I believe he could have a couple more at least left in him. Only time will tell.

Luke Schenn (Vancouver Canucks) and David Savard (Montreal Canadiens)

The Lightning lost a couple of blueliners in the 2021 offseason as well. Luke Schenn left to sign a deal with the Canucks, while David Savard inked a contract with Montreal. Schenn was initially brought to Tampa on a one-year contract during the summer of 2019. After winning the Cup with them, he re-signed another one-year deal to remain a member of the team. He skated away a two-time Cup champion. Savard, meanwhile, was only a one-time champion, as he was traded for during the 2020-21 campaign. He was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets by Detroit but was then traded again to Tampa. Before arriving in the Bay Area, he had accumulated one goal and five assists for six points in 40 games for the Blue Jackets. He went pointless during the regular season for the Lightning but amassed five assists in 20 postseason games during the 2021 Cup run and won his first championship.

In fact, Savard set up the Cup-clinching goal in the Final when forward Ross Colton tipped in his shot. Vasilevskiy earned a shutout, and the Lightning won the game by a 1-0 final score.

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Schenn finished his time in Tampa with a total of 63 regular-season games played, with three goals and four helpers for seven points. In the playoffs, he suited up a combined 19 times between the 2020 and 2021 runs. During that span, he accumulated one tally and two assists for three points. Savard, in his lone season with the Lightning, played in 14 regular-season contests, going pointless. For the 2021 postseason, he had five assists in 20 matchups.

Savard has played a good amount with the Canadiens this season, while Schenn has been an extra defender for Vancouver. Both bolstered the defensive ranks while they were members of the Lightning, and they potentially will do the same where they both currently are in Canada.

Barclay Goodrow and the New York Rangers

The last of the departed players to discuss is forward Barclay Goodrow. He completed the line previously mentioned who also included Gourde and Coleman. Like in Coleman’s case, Goodrow is another example of BriseBois recognizing a talent’s skillset who would help make the Lightning harder to play against and brought him in during the 2019-20 season. He was acquired from the San Jose Sharks. The full deal was Goodrow and a third-round selection in the 2020 Draft for forward Anthony Greco and a 2020 first-round pick.

Goodrow was a solid penalty killer during his time with the Lightning. He provided grit to the roster and was not afraid to get his hands dirty if necessary. He also brought size and physicality to the table. He might not have been the biggest offensive contributor on the stat sheet, but he provided stability to an extent in that area. He posted the following numbers, both regular season and playoffs, during his time in Tampa:

  • 2019-20: two assists in eight games
  • 2020 playoffs: one goal and five assists for six points in 25 games
  • 2020-21: six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 55 games
  • 2021 playoffs: two goals and four assists for six points in 18 games
Barclay Goodrow, New York Rangers
Barclay Goodrow signed a six-year contract with the New York Rangers after being traded there from Tampa. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After becoming a two-time Cup champion with the Lightning, Goodrow was moved by BriseBois from Tampa to the New York Rangers. He was scheduled to become a free agent and his rights were dealt to the Blueshirts for a 2022 seventh-round pick. The Rangers then inked him to a six-year deal.

Since joining New York, Goodrow has played in 14 games this season with seven points (three goals and four assists). He was one of a few gritty players Rangers GM Chris Drury brought in during the offseason. He also acquired Ryan Reaves from the Vegas Golden Knights and Sammy Blais from the St. Louis Blues through trades while signing Jarred Tinordi as a free agent. The team is a young group with players like Alexis Lafreniere, 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, and Igor Shesterkin, among others growing into their own, so it was important to bring players like Goodrow and Reaves in to protect those talents on the ice. The Artemi Panarin-Tom Wilson incident from last season is one example of why these players are needed. We will see how Goodrow and the others do at policing opponent talent and sticking up for their teammates, but so far, I think Goodrow has been an excellent fit for them.

Overall, the Lightning did not have a choice in letting talented players go off of their roster in the offseason. As much as some of these players gained fans for their contributions in Tampa and helped the team win multiple championships, the cap continued to be a factor in running the club. BriseBois did the best he could in filling the roster holes with free-agent signings and such, and time will tell on the final results of this season whether they will get that threepeat. When it comes to the players who departed, though, those guys are doing their best to impact their new squads. As the 2021-22 campaign rolls forward, we will see how much more progression these talents have as they look to get their clubs to the next level.

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