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Lightning Round: Tampa Bay restocks the prospect cabinet

The Lightning added nine new players to the organization during a draft that seemingly never ended.

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2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Kinsey Janke/NHLI via Getty Images

That was not a quick draft. With nothing on their agenda or any flights to catch the NHL’s general managers meandered through six rounds of the 2020 NHL draft with the second round alone taking almost two hours to complete. There were 27 trades made (mostly for picks) and it seemed every pick took the entire time limit to make. It wasn’t the most entertaining way to spend the day.

It was, however, productive for the Lightning. They ended up making nine selections on the day and even traded into the second round to snag large human Jack Finley with the 57th pick. They focuses on offense as they drafted seven forwards, one defenseman, and one goalie. A complete look at the folks they picked can be found here.

It’s unlikely that any of the players drafted on Wednesday will be dynamic, game-changing forces at the NHL level. The best case scenario for most of them will see them as middle-six forwards that contribute to a team’s success. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that when your first pick doesn’t come until 56 other players have been selected. If the Lightning end up with 2-3 players that contribute regularly in the future - that would be a success.

All of that is in the future, though. With the draft concluded it’s time for General Manager Julien BriseBois to focus on the immediate future. The somewhat easy work is over and now he has to figure out how to shape the 2021 Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning

We have started draft profiles on the players the Lightning selected and expect to have them finished over the next few days.

Jack Finley - Profile

Gage Concalves - Profile

Maxim Groshev - Profile

Eamon Powell - Profile

The Lightning also started checking off their Restricted Free Agents as they signed Mitchell Stephens and Gemel Smith to new contracts. [Raw Charge]

Somewhat surprisingly they did not tender contracts to all of their RFAs and they weren’t the only club. Teams seem willing to risk losing some of their younger players that they have contract control over in order to not be locked into a contract they’re forced to take via arbitration. With a tight salary cap saving a couple of million of dollars by letting players who may be splitting time between the AHL and the NHL could be the deciding factor in signing a player that may have more of an impact.

There is also the chance that some of these players, who will all be Unrestricted Free Agents on Friday, might not find a spot with an organization and re-sign with the Lightning at a deal that works more in the club’s favor.

For the Lightning, they sent contracts to: Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Ross Colton, Mathieu Joseph, Dominik Masin, Mikhail Sergachev, Ben Thomas, and Alex Volkov.

RFA’s who did not receive a contract: Carter Verhaeghe, Devante Stephens, and Dennis Yan.

Verhaeghe probably sticks out as the biggest name since he spent the entire season with the Lightning, but it is possible that the club feels like they can fill his role with a less expensive contract then he would have signed through the RFA/Arbitration process.

Dennis Yan could be a target for an AHL-only deal as injuries have slowed his development a bit. The same goes for Devante Stephens who could be brought back to help with Syracuse’s depth if he doesn’t find a NHL deal elsewhere.

Corey Pronman ranked the Lightning draft as average. Which, honestly, it probably was. He did have good things to say about some of the back-end picks like Eamon Powell and Amir Miftakhov but overall game them a C+ [The Athletic]

He [Powell] is mobile, allowing him to close gaps and skate pucks up. And despite his size, he was quite reliable defensively due to the combination of his feet and hockey IQ.

The Lightning traded their 2nd round pick from 2021 and a 4th round pick in 2020 to Montreal for the 57th pick in this year’s draft. They used it to draft Jack Finley. Why? Because they thought he was one of the few remaining players on their internal list of who they liked in the draft and there was concern he wouldn’t last until pick 62. [Tampa Bay Times]

“We have certain cutoffs on our list where we feel that the quality of players starts to diminish, and (Finley) was one of the last couple of players in that group,” [Director of Amateur Scouting Al] Murray said. “We wanted to get him. We wanted to make sure he didn’t slip through.”

Around the League

TRAAAAAAADDDEEE. While most of the moves made yesterday involved moving up and down in the draft, there was one that involved a fairly important player. Pittsburgh sent goaltender Matt Murray to Ottawa in exchange for Jonathan Gruden (not that one) and a second round pick. They then drafted goalies back-to-back. The Pens clear the way for Tristan Jarry to be their number one goaltender and the Senators get a young, sometimes healthy goalie that has a couple of Stanley Cup rings. [Silver Seven Sens]

For the Senators, this is a really safe, low-risk move. Not only did they avoid parting with a high second-rounder or a top prospect, but they bring in a goaltender that has the potential to be a Turris or Duclair-style reclamation project. Past couple seasons aside, Murray is a Stanley Cup winner for a reason, and will certainly be motivated to bounce back and earn himself a lucrative long-term deal.

TRAAAAAADDDDEEE Part II. Minnesota and Nashville flipped some players as well. The Predators sent Nick Bonino and two second round picks to Minnesota for Luke Kunin and 4th round pick. The Predators were able to clear some salary while the Wild pick up a veteran center (and possibly removing themselves as a destination for Tyler Johnson). [Hockey Wilderness]

The 32-year-old forward is a solid two-way center and one that you can depend on in the middle-six of your lineup. Coming off of a year where he scored 18 goals and 35 points during his third season as a member of the Predators, Bonino has remained steady in his production during his recent career — averaging 0.43 points per game his last three campaigns.

There were no Alex Trebek cameos on Day Two, but there was a discussion on Anakin Skywalker’s parentage. Rangers pick Will Cuylle is a self-proclaimed “big Star Wars fan”. He did a pretty good job of baffling the TV crew while talking about midi-chlorians.

While I take severe umbrage at The Revenge of the Sith being his favorite Star Wars movie I can understand it. He was born in 2002. While he was only 3-years-old when ROTS was released, the prequel trilogy was probably more accessible to him during his childhood. He most likely watched that more than the original trilogy and thus favors it to the original.

I was only four when Empire Strikes Back came out, but watched it endlessly as a child and consider it my favorite. For some reason it seems like whichever Star Wars trilogy you had access to as a kid tends to imprint itself on you. So GenXer’s like myself are going to have to deal with the fact that a lot of young people out there prefer the prequels to the original trilogy. That’s fine. Really. It’s fine.

For the record my personal rank is:

  1. Empire Strikes Back
  2. Episode IV
  3. Rogue One
  4. ROTS
  5. The Last Jedi

Thank you to everyone who has checked out our site over the last few weeks. We really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read what we write. From the beginning of The Restart and up through the draft we’ve had some really strong viewership numbers.

It really does encourage us to keep writing and keep you all informed about what’s going on with this little Sunbelt team that won the Stanley Cup. Hopefully we can keep you entertained through the off-season (a fall without hockey is going to be weird, really, really weird).

Enjoy your day, wash your hands and wear a mask.