Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars had great playoff runs; what awaits this offseason?
Most of the top players on the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars are signed long-term, but there are key decisions to make.Tampa Bay Lightning wins Stanley Cup
With free agency now less than a month away, many teams are already looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Tampa Bay’s players are certainly focused on beginning the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, but management is undoubtedly aware of some of the core players in need of new deals soon after.
F Anthony Cirelli – Last season was his first in the NHL and while he played well, he still was a little bit under the radar. That isn’t the case now. Despite the pandemic, he set a career-high with 44 points in 69 games while establishing himself as one of the top two-way centers in the league. Writers around the NHL certainly noticed as he finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting. So far in the playoffs, his production has tapered off a bit, but he has logged more than 20 minutes a night while playing in a checking role. Cirelli isn’t arbitration-eligible, but there will be teams that view him as a second liner; and if that’s the case, he could be a candidate for an offer sheet (especially with the Lightning’s cap situation).
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The Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning face off in the Stanley Cup Final, starting Saturday in the Edmonton, Alberta bubble.The former San Jose Sharks captain chose Dallas.
D Mikhail Sergachev – The 22-year-old hasn’t had that big leap offensively since he picked up 40 points in his rookie season; he hasn’t reached that mark since. However, he has gone from being a player who had to be sheltered on the third pairing into a capable top-four defender who has shown considerable improvement in his own end. That will undoubtedly catch the eye of any GM who wants to try an offer sheet and isn’t impressed with the current trade or UFA options. If one of those doesn’t materialize (which is the likelier scenario), a short-term contract will probably be the outcome since the Lightning don’t have much cap space with which to work this offseason.
Steven Stamkos returns to Lightning lineup for Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final
After 211 days, Steven Stamkos is back. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain is officially in the lineup for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.Stamkos makes his 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs debut nearly two months after the postseason began, a feat made possible only by his team’s ability to reach the Cup Final. Stamkos suffered a core injury in late February that required surgery. While he was initially given a timeline of six-to-eight weeks, core surgery rehab often exceeds expectations. Yet, many still hoped that Stamkos would be ready for the beginning of the postseason.
D Erik Cernak – He won’t blow anyone away offensively by any stretch but Cernak has settled into a strong defensive role and has been an anchor on what has been one of the better penalty kills among teams that have gone relatively deep into the playoffs. Like Cirelli and Sergachev, he isn’t eligible for salary arbitration, which will hurt his earnings upside a bit, so a bridge contract is expected. Even so, he should at least triple his $735,000 qualifying offer.
Other RFAs: F Ross Colton, F Mathieu Joseph, D Dominik Masin, F Gemel Smith, D Devante Stephens, F Mitchell Stephens, D Ben Thomas, F Carter Verhaeghe, F Alexander Volkov, F Dennis Yan
D Kevin Shattenkirk – While things didn’t work out well for him in New York, Shattenkirk has fared much better with the Lightning. Instead of being counted on to be an offensive catalyst as he was with the Rangers, he’s in more of a supporting cast role and has made the most of it, picking up 34 points in 70 regular-season games and nine more in 19 postseason contests so far. He has done well to restore some value; and while he won’t come anywhere close to the $6.65 million average annual value of his contract that was eventually bought out, he should check in higher than $1.75 million he played for this season. A multi-year pact is certainly a possibility as well.
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F Patrick Maroon – Gone are the days when there were teams hoping that he could be part of a top-six forward group, but Maroon has shown that he can still contribute in a more limited role. Any team looking for grit and leadership in its bottom six should show interest in Maroon, especially if he’s willing to take a deal close to the $900,000 he made this season. With many teams being limited in what they can spend this offseason, he should have a longer list of suitors this time around.
D Zach Bogosian – Expectations were quite low after his deal with the Sabres was terminated, but he has fit in nicely with the Lightning. Between the regular season and playoffs, he has averaged around 18 minutes per game and has held his own. It was risky walking away from more guaranteed money had he reported to Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, but had he done that, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t have had much interest in free agency. He should have several suitors now, so this decision is one that has certainly worked out for him.
Other UFAs: G Mike Condon, D Cameron Gaunce, G Spencer Martin, D Jan Rutta, D Luke Schenn, D Patrick Sieloff, G Scott Wedgewood
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Tampa Bay has nearly $69 million in cap commitments for next season already, per CapFriendly. That spending gets the Lightning only a goalie, two defensemen and seven forwards. With an $81.5 million cap, that leaves them less than $13 million to fill out half of their roster with two of their top young restricted free agents needing new deals. There’s no sugar-coating it – they need to clear out a notable contract or two. However, of the 10 players signed, only two don’t have trade protection and those two – Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy – aren’t going anywhere. GM Julien BriseBois will have his work cut out for him when Tampa Bay's series against Dallas comes to an end.
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Related slideshow: Every NHL team's likely next retired number (Provided by Yardbarker)
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There are fewer honors greater for professional sports players than a team retiring their numbers, guaranteeing that no one else will ever wear it again. Just about every team in the league has at least a handful of retired or honored numbers, and now we are going to take a look at the next player for each NHL team who should have his jersey placed in the rafters. We are excluding players whose number retirements are scheduled for this season or next season and looking only at players who have not yet been announced.
When Getzlaf retires he is going to finish his career as the Ducks' all-time leader in games played, assists and total points while also being a Stanley Cup champion and longtime captain of the team. His peak may not have been as good as that of players like Paul Kariya or Teemu Selanne, but his overall resume is as complete as any other player the franchise has ever seen.
Playing in Arizona and on a team that has not made the playoffs often, it can be easy to overlook Ekman-Larsson. But he is an outstanding top-pairing defenseman and has been the Coyotes' best all-around player from almost the day he arrived. He is a constant threat to score 20 goals as a defenseman and is one of the most best offensive blue-liners in the entire league. At this point it still seems like a stretch to think he will one day have his number retired, but he might be the next logical choice in the future.
Bergeron is one of the best all-around players of his era and an all-time great Bruin. In his 16 years (and counting) with the team, he helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup, play in two other Stanley Cup Finals, won four Selke Trophies as the league's best defensive forward and was the driving force behind one of the best defensive teams in the entire league. He's a Hall of Famer and worthy of joining all of the Bruins' all-time greats.
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Buffalo Sabres: Dave Andreychuk (25)
Andreychuk is all over the Sabres' all-time leader boards, currently residing in the top three in goals, assists and total points, while also ranking sixth all-time in games played. He is a Hall of Famer and was a massive piece of several playoff teams in Buffalo throughout the 1980s.
No player has worn the No. 14 since Fleury last sported it during the 1999 season. So it is kind of a mystery as to why it has not actually been put in the rafters next to Mike Vernon's and Lanny McDonald's. Fleury helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup as a rookie during the 1988-89 season and then went on to be one of the most prolific scorers in franchise history.
It is easy to forget just how good Staal was in the early part of his career with the Hurricanes. He scored 40 goals two different times, was a dominant two-way player and helped bring the Stanley Cup to Raleigh during the 2005-06 season. He is the best player the franchise has had since it relocated to North Carolina and was the best player on the franchise's only championship team.
There are a lot of Blackhawks fans who think this should have already happened. He may not have the Stanley Cup clout that the current core of Blackhawks has (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith), but those players are all still active and years away from being in a position to have their numbers retired. Larmer is also one of the best players in franchise history and helped turn the team into a Stanley Cup contender in the early 1990s, including the 1991-92 season when it actually reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Going far into the future here, but MacKinnon is probably going to be the next player to get this honor. The Avalanche have already retired most of the notable numbers from their championship era, and of the remaining core players from those teams (Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay) they probably did not play long enough in Colorado to warrant such an honor. MacKinnon, though, appears he is going to be with the Avalanche for the long haul and end up being one of the best players of his era. The Avalanche have a chance to bring the Stanley Cup back to Denver in the very near future, and if MacKinnon helps deliver that he will be an Avalanche legend.
Nash does not get anywhere near enough credit for how good of a player he was. A former No. 1 overall pick, Nash became the Blue Jackets' first star player and finished as the league's leading goal-scorer in just his second season in the NHL. He was a yearly threat to score 40 goals and was an outstanding two-way player who also developed into one of the league's best penalty killers. The Blue Jackets were never really able to build anything significant around him, but it does not take away from the fact he is the best player the team has ever had.
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Dallas Stars: Derian Hatcher (2)
The Stars have already retired the numbers of Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen from their glory days, and Sergei Zubov will be joining them next season. The other top defenseman on that team was the rugged Hatcher, a player who probably best defined that era of the NHL and Stars hockey. A physical, shutdown defenseman who was part of the backbone of the team's only Stanley Cup winning club.
You could make the argument that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk should probably both get their numbers retired together given their importance between the 2006 and 2015 seasons. They were the backbone of one of the league's best teams and among the best two-way players in the league during that time. I will give Zetterberg the edge as the player who followed Nicklas Lidstrom as team captain and for his 2008 Conn Smythe winning performance.
McDavid is going to be the NHL's best and most dominant player for the next decade and beyond. If the Oilers do not screw it up, he should help bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton at some point too. He will be with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey among the franchise's all-time greats.
This might be a stretch because Bure spent only parts of four seasons in Florida, while several players have worn the number since he played there (including currently Brett Connolly). But there is no denying the impact Bure made. He was probably the most high-profile superstar to play for the Panthers and was the most dominant goal-scorer in the league during his time there. He finished as the league's leading goal scorer twice and averaged 0.70 goals per game with the Panthers (a 57-goal pace over 82 games). He did that during the lowest goal-scoring era in NHL history. Just for perspective, the next highest goal per game average in the NHL during that stretch was Jaromir Jagr at 0.57 goals per game (a 46-goal pace per 82 games).
Kopitar helped bring the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles during the 2011-12 season and then did it again two years later. While Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams and Drew Doughty got most of the accolades for those championship runs, Kopitar was the best player on all of those teams and has been the best player on the team since making his debut. He is one of the franchise icons for what he helped bring to Los Angeles.
Technically the only retired number for the Wild is No. 1 — for their fans. When it comes to finally retiring a number for a player, Koivu seems like he will be at the top of the list. He has spent more than 15 seasons in Minnesota and been a truly fantastic player. He is the franchise leader in games played, assists and total points and has been a complete all-around player every year as well as the team captain for 12 seasons and counting.
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Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price (31)
Pretty much every significant Canadiens player from the team's past has their number already retired or honored. So that leaves the current generation, and Price is the obvious no-brainer here. He has been an elite goalie throughout his career and at times has carried the franchise to levels it would otherwise have no business reaching. He won an MVP Award and a Vezina Trophy, and when he is at his best he can be one of the most game-changing and season-changing players in the entire league. He is an All-Star on and off the ice for the Canadiens.
The Predators have yet to retire a number, but if anyone is deserving of such an honor at this point it might be Legwand, the original Predator. He was their first draft pick and is still the franchise's all-time leader in every major category including games played, goals, assists and total points (all by a significant margin). He was never a superstar, but he was an outstanding player who helped build the Predators into a formidable NHL franchise. That counts for something.
Gomez does not get enough credit for how good he was in the early part of his career. Between 1999 and 2007, he was an elite playmaker and one of the best forwards on a multiple Stanley Cup winner in New Jersey. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias are the other key players from that era to have their numbers retired by the Devils, and Gomez was right there with them in terms of importance.
LaFontaine just missed the Islanders dynasty, making his debut with the team during the 1983-84 season (they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final that year), but he is still one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the best American-born players of all-time.
Lundqvist's short-term future with the Rangers remains in doubt beyond this season, but here is what is not in doubt: He is the best goalie the team has ever seen and has been the best goalie of his era. The only disappointing part of his tenure with the Rangers is that he did not win a Stanley Cup with the team. He did lead the Rangers to one Stanley Cup Final during the 2013-14 season and helped carry the team to contention almost every year he was their starting goalie.
A true superstar during his time with the Senators, Karlsson won two Norris Trophies, was a runner-up two additional times (probably should have won the award in each of those seasons, too) and at his peak, he was the most impactful defenseman the NHL had seen since the days of Bobby Orr. He was that good in Ottawa. His best stretch came during the 2016-17 season when he almost single-handedly carried the team to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final...while playing injured. He was so good that postseason that he actually earned a Conn Smythe Trophy vote even though his team did not reach the Stanley Cup Final. That is respect. It is also dominance.
It might be a little late in the game for this one since 16 different players have worn the number since Leach last did, but he was a pretty significant part of Flyers history. Leach owns the franchise record for goals in a season (61) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy during their most recent Stanley Cup win in the 1974-75 season.
This has to happen. There was some bitterness with the way Jagr left the Penguins two decades ago, and he was still active playing for opponents as recently as a couple of years ago, but there is no way the Penguins cannot retire this number. Jagr helped bring two Stanley Cups to Pittsburgh and was one of the two or three best players in the league (sometimes the best) for his entire tenure with the team. At worst he is the third-best player in franchise history behind only Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
Both Marleau and Joe Thornton (19) are going to have their numbers retired at some point by the Sharks. It seems like a given. But Marleau might get that honor first because he was drafted by the team and is the franchise leader in games played, goals and total points. He never won the Stanley Cup in San Jose, but he did help the team reach the Stanley Cup Final during the 2015-16 season. Not only is he one of the Sharks' franchise legends, he is one of the most underappreciated players across the league for his era.
Pietrangelo has been a rock on the Blues defense for more than a decade and was the captain of the first-ever Stanley Cup winning team in franchise history. That is exactly the type of player who gets a number retired by a team. He will one day join Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger among the team's all-time great defensemen who have their numbers retired for the Blues.
Stamkos has been the second-best goal scorer of his era, trailing only Alex Ovechkin. He is already one of the greatest players in Lightning history and is one of their biggest superstars. The only thing his resume is missing at this point is a Stanley Cup. He has been close. If he gets over the hump he might be the greatest player in franchise history.
The Maple Leafs have either retired or "honored" several numbers of former players and have included pretty much every noteworthy player from their past. So we will look far into the future and go with Matthews, who has already shown that he is one of the best goal-scorers in the league. If he helps bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto, his status among the team greats will forever be cemented.
Edler has never really received a ton of national attention during his career, but he has been one of the best defensemen in the history of the franchise and a key piece during one of the most successful eras the Canucks have ever seen. Now that Henrik and Daniel Sedin have had their numbers retired, Edler might be the next logical choice in the future.
When the Golden Knights acquired Fleury in the expansion draft he immediately became their franchise player. He has been the cornerstone piece of the team both on and off the ice in its first three years and helped backstop the team to the Stanley Cup Final in its first year of existence. He was one of their first players. He is their first superstar. He will be their first retired number.
In the future you know Alex Ovechkin will have his No. 8 retired. That is a given. But that is still probably a decade or so away from happening, as Ovechkin still has several more dominant years ahead of him in the NHL. In the meantime, another Capitals superstar from their past is probably long overdue for having his number go to the rafters — Bondra. He is a 500-goal scorer and was an absolute superstar for the Capitals throughout the 1990s. He won two goal-scoring crowns for the Capitals and was one of the league's most dominant goal scorers between the 1990 and 2002 seasons. Given how great he was, it is kind of a surprise his number is not already retired by the Capitals.
The current version of the Jets (the one that moved from Atlanta in 2012) has not retired any numbers, but they do have one obvious candidate for that honor in the future. Wheeler has been one of the league's most underrated players this decade and one of the top point producers in the league. He has been the face of the franchise, their captain, their leader and the team's all-time leading point producer. Seems like a slam dunk in the future.
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The 6-2 forward proved he can handle himself physically at the NHL level and should find himself in the lineup more often than not unless Nashville makes some additions this offseason. The fact that he’ll only cost the league minimum and is no longer waiver-exempt only adds to his case.Subscribe to Yardbarker's Morning Bark, the most comprehensive newsletter in sports. Customize your email to get the latest news on your favorite sports, teams and schools. Emailed daily.