The extra long off-season the Tampa Bay Lightning did not want is winding down. Training camp will soon begin as the Lightning prepare for their first pre-season game on Sept. 26 against the Carolina Hurricanes. As the team heads into their training camp, roster moves made necessary by salary camp constraints have raised some questions about the Lightning and their quest for another Stanley Cup title.
There is one question that Mikhail Sergachev just recently answered concerning the team’s motivation heading into the 2023-24 season. The Lightning defenseman recently told the 32 Thoughts: The Podcast “We’re pissed off. We don’t want to lose. The guys are very competitive even now. Usually before camp we skate [together]. We’ll do five drills and play a game. Usually it’s like beer-league hockey. Now, it’s intense. Some hitting, too. It’s great. Competitive.”
Even with that question answered, others will be looked at before the Lightning start the regular season on Oct. 10 in a nationally televised contest against the Nashville Predators.
Do the Lightning Have a Reliable Backup Goaltender?
After choosing not to re-sign Brian Elliott, the Lightning signed goaltender Jonas Johansson to a two-year contract with a $775,000 AAV to be Andrei Vasilievskiy’s backup. The 27-year-old has seen limited action in the NHL, appearing in only three games with the Colorado Avalanche this past season and registering a 2-0-0 record, 2.10 goals-against average, and .932 save percentage. He holds an 11-13-4 career record over four seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, and the Avalanche.
The native of Sweden is also on a two-way contract, which could signal the possibility that top goaltending prospect Hugo Alnefelt will get the call to be Vasilevskiy’s backup if Johansson does not impress in training camp. Either way, the signing also signals the likelihood that Vasilevskiy will again see plenty of action between the pipes this season. But the Lightning do need someone reliable for the 20 or so games that the backup goaltender will probably play in this season.
Can Alex Barre-Boulet Crack the Lightning Lineup?
There is very little that Barre-Boulet can gain from playing in the AHL this coming season. The highly skilled and tenacious forward became the all-time points leader in Syracuse Crunch history while placing second in the AHL in assists and total points. Barre-Boulet has been drawing comparisons to former Lightning Yanni Gourde, who was also an undersized forward out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He developed in Syracuse and spent five seasons in the AHL before blossoming with the Lightning.
If Barre-Boulet can show he is ready, he could find himself paired on the third line with Nick Paul and Tanner Jeannot. His speed, tenacity, and scoring ability would be a nice complement to the playing styles of his linemates. This could benefit both Paul and Jeannot, who both played below expectations last season. His skillset would also fit well on the fourth line and with the recent veterans the Lightning signed in the off-season, such as Luke Glendenning and Logan Brown.
Can the Lightning Compensate for the Loss of Killorn and Colton?
The key word here is compensate, not replace. The Lightning did not have the salary cap to keep either of these players or replace them with comparable players. Maybe the biggest question is whether the assembled group of free-agent signees, such as Conor Sheary, Luke Glendenning, Logan Brown, and Tyler Motte, will be collectively able to help the Lightning offset the loss of two key players.
Sheary checks a lot of boxes for the Lightning. He not only has Stanley Cup experience, winning twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he has also played successfully with some of the NHL’s biggest stars, such as Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh and recently with Alex Ovechkin in Washington. He knows how to be a complementary type of player. Glendening will help the Lightning in an area they struggled with last season, winning key faceoffs. Brown and Motte have some upside that head coach Jon Cooper can bring out in both players. If things pan out, the Lightning could have four lines that are at least collectively better than what they had last season.
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The salary cap has forced the Lightning to change their roster over the past few years. While they still have their high-end talent, the depth of their roster has taken a hit since they made three straight Stanley Cup Finals. If they want to appear in another Cup Final, they will have to answer some serious questions about their 2023-24 roster before that happens.