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Lightning Offseason: Hotseat Rankings


By Guest Contributor Andrew Weiss

Another NHL season is in the books. The Washington Capitals claimed the Stanley Cup, which meant watching several high-quality videos of a drunk Alex Ovechkin. In order for the Capitals to have won it all, however, they had to go through the Tampa Bay Lightning. This has seemingly become a rite of passage for champions, as three of the past four Stanley Cup winners have defeated the Lightning in the playoffs late in May or early in June. This is a sign that the Lightning have produced successful, strong seasons that led to long postseason runs. It has also painfully reminded fans that Tampa remains a step away from another suntan for Stanley.

You can bet Steve Yzerman, general manager and Jedi of the Lightning, spent just a few mere minutes after the loss to the Capitals before figuring out his next step. A patient, intimidating man, Yzerman was a finalist for the GM of the Year award for good reason. His sneaky good trade to acquire Louis Domingue in late 2017 gave the Lightning a backup goalie they could rely on, which only added to his track record.

This is a man with high exceptions, no worry, and cold, calculating determination. Not someone that takes pleasure in the fact that the Lightning have finished just shy of their goal season after season three of the last four years.

Trying to read his mind is impossible. The closest thing is the following list, a hotseat ranking of the roster from 2017-2018 to determine who is gone, who is close, and who is a fixture for years in Tampa.

The scale originally was going to be 1-10, before realizing it was much easier doing it on a scale of one Matt Carle to 10 Matt Carles. The more Matt Carles a player has, the closer he is to the door.

Bolts Extend Koekkoek with One Year Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Slater Koekkoek to a one-year, one-way contract worth $865,000, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Koekkoek, 24, played in 35 games with the Lightning last season, posting four goals and eight points to go along with 18 penalty minutes. He set career highs for games played, goals, points, penalty minutes and plus/minus (+4). The 6-foot-2, 193-pound defenseman scored his first two career NHL goals in the same game on October 12, 2017 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Koekkoek has appeared in 76 career NHL games, all with the Bolts over the past four seasons, posting four goals and 13 points to go along with 30 penalty minutes.

The Winchester, Ontario native has also skated in 180 career American Hockey League games, recording 12 goals and 54 points to go along with 84 penalty minutes. Koekkoek played in 22 games during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, recording a goal and seven points and helped the Crunch reach the Calder Cup Final.

Koekkoek was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first-round, 10th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.

Lightning Sign Depth Defenseman Cameron Gaunce

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Cameron Gaunce to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Gaunce, 28, skated in 67 games with the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League last season, recording three goals and 24 points to go along with 96 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound defenseman led all Cleveland defensemen for assists with 21 and points. Gaunce also paced the team for penalty minutes during the 2017-18 season.

The Sudbury, Ontario native has appeared in 32 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins over three seasons, registering two goals and five points to go along with 36 penalty minutes. Gaunce has also played in 535 career AHL games with the Monsters, Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Penguins, Portland Pirates and Texas Stars, collecting 24 goals and 171 points. He helped the Texas Stars win the Calder Cup in 2014, skating in 18 postseason games, recording four assists and a plus-6 rating.

Gaunce was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, 50th overall, at the 2008 NHL Draft.

Lightning Give Ryan McDonagh Seven-Year Extension

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract extension worth $6.75 million (AAV) per season, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. The extension will commence with the 2019-20 season.

McDonagh, 29, skated in 63 games last season, splitting time between the Lightning and New York Rangers, registering four goals and 29 points to go along with 20 penalty minutes. He was acquired from the Rangers by the Bolts at this season’s trade deadline on February 26 along with forward J.T. Miller, who himself signed a five-year contract with the Lightning earlier this week. In 14 games with the Lightning, McDonagh posted a pair of goals and three points. He also appeared in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games with Tampa Bay, collecting five assists while averaging 22:31 of ice time per game. McDonagh ranked second on the Lightning for average time on ice and led the team for blocked shots with 35 during the postseason.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound defenseman has appeared in 530 career NHL games, all with the Rangers and Lightning over eight seasons, posting 53 goals and 241 points to go along with a plus-142 rating. The four-year captain of the Rangers led the team for blocked shots and average time on ice during the 2017-18 season prior to being traded to Tampa Bay.

Kevin Lynch One-Year, Two-Way Contract Official

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Kevin Lynch to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Lynch, 27, skated in 57 games with the Crunch during the 2017-18 season, posting 14 goals and 26 points to go along with 48 penalty minutes. He ranked third on Syracuse for shorthanded goals with two and was tied for sixth for goals. The Grosse Point, Michigan native also appeared in seven Calder Cup Playoff games in 2018, recording two goals and five points.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound forward has played in 154 career AHL games over four seasons with the Crunch and Manitoba Moose, registering 22 goals and 37 points to go along with 88 penalty minutes. Lynch set career highs for games played, goals, assists (12), points and penalty minutes during the 2017-18 season.

Lynch was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round, 56th overall, at the 2009 NHL Draft.

Lightning Gives J.T. Miller 5-Year, $26M+ Contract Extension

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward J.T. Miller to a five-year contract worth $5.25 million per season, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Miller, 25, skated in 82 games last season, splitting time between the New York Rangers and Lightning, posting 23 goals and 58 points to go along with 40 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound forward was acquired by the Bolts at the trade deadline on February 26, 2018. In 19 games with the Lightning, Miller posted 10 goals and 18 points, which included five power-play tallies. Miller recorded his first career hat trick on March 13 against the Ottawa Senators. He also skated in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Bolts, tallying two goals and eight points to go along with 15 penalty minutes.

Prior to joining the Lightning, Miller recorded 13 goals and 40 points while with the Rangers. The East Palestine, Ohio native led the Rangers for game-winning goals with four and also ranked second on the Rangers for assists with 27 and points before being traded to Tampa Bay. He recorded his third consecutive 20-goal season in 2017-18 and also set career highs for goals, assists, points, power-play goals (11) and face-off percentage (54.3%).

Miller has appeared in 360 NHL games over his six-year NHL career, registering 82 goals and 190 points to go along with 156 penalty minutes. He’s also skated in 57 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, recording three goals and 24 points to go along with 44 penalty minutes. Miller has reached the Eastern Conference Final twice (2015 & 2018) during his NHL career.

Miller was originally drafted by the Rangers in the first-round, 15th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Lightning Sign Catamount Ross Colton to Two-Year ELC

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Ross Colton to a two-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Colton, 21, appeared in 36 games with the University of Vermont last season, recording 16 goals and 23 points to go along with 16 penalty minutes. He ranked first on Vermont for goals and points. Colton also ranked sixth in the Hockey East Conference for goals, eighth for power-play goals with eight and was tied for eighth with three game-winning goals.

The Robbinsville, New Jersey native has played in 69 games with Vermont over the past two seasons, collecting 28 goals and 50 points to go along with 69 penalty minutes. He led the team for goals during his freshman season with 12 tallies and was second for points with 27.

Colton was originally drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round, 118th overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft.

Bolts Qualify Four Pending RFAs; Grant F Alex Gallant Unrestricted Free Agency

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have issued qualifying offers to four players today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Below is the list of players receiving qualifying offers:

Pos. Player
LW Adam Erne
D Slater Koekkoek
C J.T. Miller
C Cedric Paquette

The deadline for NHL clubs to issue offers is at 5 p.m. today. By issuing qualifying offers to the aforementioned players, the Lightning are given the right of first refusal or draft choice compensation should the player sign an offer sheet with another NHL club.

The Lightning did not issue a qualifying offer to forward Alex Gallant.

Bolts Extend G Louis Domingue for Two Years; Name Halpern Assistance Coach

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Louis Domingue (doh-MING, LOO-ee) to a two-year contract worth $1.15 million per season, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. Yzerman also named former Lightning forward Jeff Halpern to the position of assistant coach today.

Domingue, 26, appeared in 19 NHL games this season with the Lightning and Arizona Coyotes, posting a 7-9-1 record. He won seven of his 11 starts while with the Bolts, including four consecutive games from February 22 through March 18. Domingue made his Bolts debut on January 7 against the Detroit Red Wings, recording 34 saves in the Bolts’ 5-2 victory. Domingue was acquired by the Lightning from Arizona on November 14, 2017 in exchange for goaltender Michael Leighton and forward Tye McGinn. He also made one appearance during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, making seven saves on seven shots on May 11 versus Washington.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound goaltender also appeared in 18 games with the Syracuse Crunch this season, posting a record of 13-5-0 to go along with a 2.17 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Domingue has played in 89 career AHL games over five seasons with the Crunch, Springfield Falcons and Portland Pirates, registering a record of 40-35-3 to go along with a 2.89 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Domingue was originally selected by the Coyotes in the fifth round, 138th overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft.

2017-2018 Final Rankings

Introduction
For the third time in the past four seasons, a Lightning team was able to advance deep into May in the playoffs only to see the Stanley Cup remain elusive. With a roster of mainstays that have been together for over a half decade now, is this the summer that Steve Yzerman decides to make some changes? If he does, Tampa Bay is in the rare and envious position of having a surplus of hungry young lions pawing at the gate to get into the NHL.

To some surprise, a very youthful Syracuse Crunch team was able to once again go multiple rounds in the Calder Cup playoffs after a strong regular season where they remained one of the AHL Eastern Conference's best teams even after divesting its roster of a number of quality veteran players. This development, along with the Canadian junior nationals once again looking like the Lightning's own U20 academy team, highlighted the remarkable quality of the club's pipeline. We count, easily, at least 11 legitimate future NHL players on the 2017-2018 Final Rankings, with the club soon to add another draft class into the fold.

A brief reminder of the rules: Only players under the age of 24 on opening night of the 2017-2018 season are eligible for ranking. Skaters with 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more total NHL games are considered graduated from the rankings. Goaltenders with 30 or more decisions in a single season or 41 or more career NHL decisions are also considered graduated. Lastly, NCAA players remain eligible for ranking for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.

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