Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning’s summer might already be over, and that’s okay

So here we are, right in the middle one of the most jittery offseasons in Lightning history.

Bet the boys can hardly sit still waiting for the start of next season. That's what happens when you come this close to getting to the Stanley Cup final. That's what happens when you've crossed everything off your to-do list except, "Win Stanley Cup.''

RELATED: More Lightning coverage

In the meantime, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been hard at work, re-signing defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller to deals that will keep them in Tampa Bay uniforms for years to come.

Still, it's what the Lightning has not done that has become the topic of the summer.

The Lightning did not sign John Tavares, even though it was in the running for hockey's hottest free agent. He's headed to Toronto.

The Lightning also has not traded for star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who appears on his way out of Ottawa. It's rumored that Tampa Bay is in the mix and it's possible the Lightning gets him. But it would probably take too much (Brayden Point for starters?) and eat up too much salary to land him.

And if that's the case then the rest of the summer could be pretty quiet in these parts. Other than replacing veteran fourth-liner Chris Kunitz and adding a little low-cost depth, the Lightning isn't going to do much else. Don't expect any big splashes.

Which begs some questions:

Is that okay? Will that be enough? Can the Lightning win the Cup with this team?

The answers, in exact order, are yes, yes and yes.

If the Lightning doesn't make another move this offseason it still is in great shape to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Not only next season, but seasons to come.

And that's important to remember, that this is a long-term strategy. Yzerman's goal has always been for the Lightning to get good and then stay good. He needs only to look at his old organization, the Red Wings, for the blueprint. Detroit made the playoffs every season from 1991 to 2016. Yzerman would love to start Tampa Bay off on a playoff run of 25 consecutive seasons.

For now, the Lightning is set up for a solid streak.

The team is still young. Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, McDonagh and Miller are signed long-term. The Lightning should have the adequate cap space to eventually sign Point, Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev and, best of all, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for years to come. There are a bunch of promising kids coming, including former first-round pick Cal Foote, who will be a top-four defenseman some day.

Bottom line: this thing is setting up nicely. Now. Two years from now. Five years from now.

Now, that's no guarantee the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup. A Cup is really, really hard to win, as we've seen the past several years here in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning easily could have won three already with this current group. It literally was only a few goals away from doing just that.

But the fact remains that the Lightning has not won a Stanley Cup and every season that goes by turns the pressure up even more. And it won't be easy in the rugged Eastern Conference. The Caps are the defending champs. The Penguins and Bruins are still loaded. And the up-and-coming Leafs just got way better with the addition of Tavares.

The instinct for Tampa Bay might be to go all-in now. Maybe the Lightning could've thrown too much money at Tavares. Maybe it could give up too much to get Karlsson. And getting one or both of those players might have helped Tampa Bay's chances of winning the Cup next season, but it would have hurt the chances down the road.

Why leverage your future to win now when you already have a team that is ready to win now?

That appears to be Yzerman's thinking.

Yes, it was interested in Tavares, but only to a point. Yes, it is interested in Karlsson, but only at a certain price.

So the Lightning will move forward with pretty much what it already has.

And that is good enough.

Only one thing remains: getting to the start of next season already.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.

Comments
Hereís our Mount Rushmore for the Lightning

Hereís our Mount Rushmore for the Lightning

The Lightning just celebrated its 25th anniversary season — long enough to have a Mount Rushmore.Here it is:Marty St. Louis (2000-14)St. Louis is the all-time franchise leader in points and the only Lightning player to make the Hall of Fame aft...
Published: 07/13/18
Lightning names AHLís Derek Lalonde as new assistant

Lightning names AHLís Derek Lalonde as new assistant

The Lightning has completed Jon Cooper's coaching staff for the upcoming season, announcing on Thursday the hiring of Derek Lalonde, who spent the last two seasons as head coach of the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild.Lalonde, 45, has steadily work...
Published: 07/12/18
Lightning re-signs left wing Adam Erne to one-year contract

Lightning re-signs left wing Adam Erne to one-year contract

A busy few weeks of re-signing players continued Wednesday, as the Lightning brought back the last of their restricted free agents, signing left wing Adam Erne to a one-year, $800,000 contract for 2018-19.Erne, 23, was a second-round pick in 2013 and...
Published: 07/11/18
Lightning locks up Nikita Kucherov with 8-year, $76 million extension

Lightning locks up Nikita Kucherov with 8-year, $76 million extension

CLEARWATER — Nikita Kucherov could have waited a year, allowing the demand for a top young NHL scorer to escalate as he hit restricted free agency next summer.But when the Lightning made him an offer to become the highest-paid player in the tea...
Published: 07/10/18
Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

The Lightning took another step toward securing its future Tuesday by announcing that right wing Nikita Kucherov will sign the richest contract in franchise history.Kucherov's eight-year contract extension will pay him an average of $9.5 million star...
Published: 07/10/18
Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

TAMPA — The Erik Karlsson sweepstakes hasn't ended for the Lightning.But the Nikita Kucherov sweepstakes is over before it began.The Lightning has locked up its star right winger. An eight-year extension that begins in the 2019-20 season will p...
Published: 07/10/18
Meet the girl behind the Marty St. Louis sign

Meet the girl behind the Marty St. Louis sign

ST. PETERSBURG — When the call from the Hall came, there she was again.The girl with the "I (heart) U Marty" sign, in the newspaper again, this time on the cover of the June 27 Tampa Bay Times sports section. She was frozen in time, doing what ...
Published: 07/07/18
What might Lightning give up to get Erik Karlsson?

What might Lightning give up to get Erik Karlsson?

TAMPA — Shortly after the excitement of the real possibility Thursday night that the Lightning could be trading for defenseman Erik Karlsson, fans quickly came to an uneasy place: What exactly would Tampa Bay give up to get the two-time Norris ...
Published: 07/06/18
The Lightning advantage in Erik Karlsson trade talks

The Lightning advantage in Erik Karlsson trade talks

He wants to be here.This is the place.In case you'd missed it amid the gloom and doom of a Lightning season that came up short again, there are still people who want to play in Tampa Bay.One of them is Erik Sven Gunnar Karlsson of Landsbro, Sweden. T...
Published: 07/06/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Will the Lightning trade for Erik Karlsson?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Will the Lightning trade for Erik Karlsson?

Rick Stroud returns from vacation to discuss reports that the Lightning will acquire star defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.He also talks about reaction to Jameis Winston's three-game suspension, the Rays' crazy home stand and which p...
Published: 07/06/18