As the 2016-17 NHL season begins, the Tampa Bay Lightning are very much the same roster-wise with the exception of depth departure Jonathan Marchessault (who was essentially the 13rth forward in Tampa Bay when called up from Syracuse) and as-of-this-writing unsigned restricted free agent Nikita Kucherov. Retaining team captain Steven Stamkos with his new contract over the summer of 2016 and keeping around the vast majority of the Bolts already competitive roster, it sets a continued competitive tone going into the season ahead.
The contract status of Kucherov is a distraction, though, as is the status of recovering forward Ryan Callahan (who had hip surgery this past summer) and the looming distraction of goalie Ben Bishop’s future. Bishop is an unrestricted free agent in 2017 and will likely be a sought after commodity by opponents during the season ahead and playing elaborately for Tampa to show other teams his value.
Which member of the Tampa Bay farm system is most likely to have an impact in the NHL with the Bolts in 2016-17?
Can the Lightning show more potency on the power play?
Will goalie Ben Bishop's uncertain status affect his play on the ice?
BEST CASE SCENARIO
For the Lightning to achieve what it’s sought to achieve and gotten close to the past two seasons: To win Lord Stanley’s Cup as champions of the NHL. Tampa Bay has made the NHL playoffs four times in the six year tenure of Jeff Vinik as team owner and Steve Yzerman as General Manager, getting to the Eastern Conference Finals three times and reaching the Stanley Cup Finals once, but always coming up short.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Franchise falls down, goes boom. O, Discordia…
To elaborate: shortcomings by the club in the standings or the playoffs will be disappointing to say the least, but for the team to be broken up is a looming misfortune with thanks to free agent statuses and the 2017 NHL expansion draft forthcoming. The roster and management that works now could easily be set into disarray after the season or much sooner if things don’t operate soundly during the 2016-17 regular season.